5 Stories That Shaped My 2009: #3

Editors note: This is my look back at the 5 local stories that I believe had the greatest impact on our community in order of importance and impact. This is my opinion … and the narrative is told from this reporter’s view, offering a view of each story from a unique perspective.

While those of us who reside in Pittsburgh around proud of our city, our teams and our history there is still this sense of self-doubt that often rules. Pittsburgh knows it can be a great city, but even if you ask its residents some wonder just how it ranks with the rest of the country and whether those who aren’t from here truly appreciate what we have in this region.

The answer came emphatically from the White House in August. A very brief announcement by press secretary Robert Gibbs that Pittsburgh would host the G-20 Summit. The news was greeted by chuckles among the  White House press corps … and shock from people back here. Why in the world was the world coming to Pittsburgh?

The answer said a lot about our President, our region, our people and our future. It told me that President Obama had not forgotten the role this region played in his historic victory. It told me that our region had made a full comeback from the collapse of the Steel industry to become a leader in “green” technology and medical science. It said that what was being done in this region was a blueprint the rest of the country and the rest of the world could follow for future success. Most of all, it said the people of this region were both resilient and forward-thinking.

What was said and discussed at G-20 was really not as important as hosting the event itself. It allowed world leaders to see Pittsburgh, but it allowed the world to discover Pittsburgh: the new Pittsburgh. People who had not been here in ages were surprised by what they found. Those who had never been to Pittsburgh discovered a vibrant, growing city. Those who had abandoned the city during its hard times, rediscovered a city born again.

G-20 from my digital camera: This was noon Thursday on the North Shore. No traffic, no people, plenty of secutiry

However, the G-20 was far from perfect. We had protests that, at times, took a violent turn. We had international attention focused on the turmoil these protests caused and clashes between protestors and police. But nothing was as bad as the one thing the g-20 failed to showcase: the people of Pittsburgh. With security heighten and every entrance to the city shut down or gated off, few bothered to venture into the city those two days.

I was based on the north shore across from the Convention Center doing live reports. I had time to walk into an empty city populated by more security forces than actual residents. I know of people who chose to leave the city rather than deal with the closing down of the city. It’s a shame because what makes Pittsburgh unique is its people … and they were not to be found.

So was G-20 worth it? That’s the question that will be answered in the years to come. We are already hosting another world conference next year: a direct result of hosting a mostly peaceful G-20. Pittsburgh, for two days, was in the international spotlight. We’ll see if that results in new business coming to our town.

What I will say about G-20 is this: from my vantage point, I saw something that as recent as ten years ago would have been unimaginable. In many ways, I look at G-20 the same way I look at the Pro Bowl ( pardon the sports analogy ). It’s the honor of being named and not the event itself that is truly the thing worth celebrating.

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