Why do I love the city of Pittsburgh?
It would be easier to just say that the reasons I love Pittsburgh cannot be defined, that it’s simply the sort of nebulous, poorly-understood set of feelings that teens write poetry about. And to some degree, that’s true. Pittsburgh is my forever home, someplace so much a part of me that it is indeed sometimes difficult to pick out individual things about it that I love. Yet there are some profound bedrock truths about Pittsburgh that I can easily identify, and it is those truths that fire the love I have for the city, on this silly day of love and every day.
To understand this, some stories of Pittsburgh need to be told.
Two hundred years ago, the world was changing. The Industrial Revolution was beginning, and our country was new. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, not yet the Steel City, was ready. Pittsburgh said to the country, to the world, “Do not be afraid. I will carry you.” And it did. Pittsburgh took this nation on its big, burly shoulders and raised it up. It carried us forward into the new era. And in doing so, Pittsburgh sacrificed. It blackened its skies. It filled its beautiful rivers with trash. It cut short the lives of its sons – in the mines, in the mills, in the furnaces.
Then, when it was all used up and no one needed it anymore, Pittsburgh said, “Alright. Thank you for letting me serve you.” Without a word of protest or a groan of pain, Pittsburgh packed it all away. Never asking for help, never asking for anything. It put away its past and set about the work of cleaning up. And Pittsburgh did a lovely job, restoring everything it had to destroy and stepping into a new life. It never crowed about it. Never told anyone what it went through to recover. So no one knows.
Pittsburgh doesn’t mind when people don’t understand. When people think it is dirty and ugly. When people are so surprised to discover its beauty. We all have heard so many times, “Pittsburgh is nothing like I thought it was!” But the city does not unduly concern itself with its image. It accepts praise and it accepts criticism. Pittsburgh is busy taking care of those who call it home.
These days, Pittsburgh grows its children and gives them wings, and they fly away. People leave and leave and leave, taking with them the strength and work ethic and love of beauty that Pittsburgh instills in them. Pittsburgh gives and gives. Now, as in the past, it selflessly pours its bounty out to the people. And it never asks for anything in return.
What has Pittsburgh given me?
Strength. Grace in the face of hardship. Kindness to strangers. A desire to help. My house. My marriage. My education.
What have I given Pittsburgh? The back of my head, disappearing down the highway.
But there is something we can give back to Pittsburgh. Our love. That is what it deserves. Our love, and our gratitude – for the people that Pittsburgh has made us and the lives it has given us.
Pittsburgh inspires love because, in some strange anthropomorphic way, it gives love. And that’s not hard to understand at all.