Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"23 Years Later: Oprah Returns to Williamson, WV"

TODAY'S Oprah show features the town where I grew up, Williamson, WV. I've talked a lot on this blog about my little hometown in the Appalachian mountains. So if you want to get a glimpse of where I came from, watching today will give you a really good perspective.

My hometown, Williamson, WV

Maybe you remember....

Back in 1987 my small town made national news because of a new, mysterious and terrifying disease called AIDS. A man who was known to be gay and who had the disease was found swimming in our public swimming pool, was subsequently thrown out and the pool shut down. Oprah came a few months later to do a town hall type meeting to discuss this issue. I remember rushing home from school (I was 11, about to turn 12) to watch the show at 4pm because it was of course, all the buzz around town. And two of the man's cousins were in my class, so I had already heard from them how the community were treating him and their family. Which, if you can imagine, was not very favorably or with much compassion.

Oprah in 1987 at a town hall meeting discussing
AIDS and the
treatment of Mike Sisco
(pictured in the black sweater),
after he was thrown out
of the town's public pool.

In many ways, the big event of Oprah Winfrey coming to town changed my life and my thinking, even at 12 years old! I will post more on this tomorrow after I see today's show. I'm anxious to hear how (or if) attitudes have changed about homosexuality, AIDS, how we handled the situation as a community and if people, in 2010, are remorseful for how they reacted and treated this man and his family.

Oprah back in Williamson, WV 2010
(Courtesy: Williamson Daily News)

Watch today and stay tuned for my thoughts tomorrow.....


  1. Wow! This is so interesting. I don't usually watch Oprah, but I will today.

  2. I watched it today. So sad. I was amazed at the pure rage and anger of the folks back in 1987.

  3. I was watching the show today. It amazed me that the fear of one person could cause such an uproar. What was most incredible was the people and their actions. But here is something most people don't know. Those same words of fear and hate came from those in the gay community as well. In the early days, lovers through their partners out in fear, hospitals left AIDS patients in the hallways so as not to infect those in the other rooms. It was chaos and heartbreak and nothing could be done. Thanks for posting this on your blog!


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