I traveled across the country from St. Louis, MO to Watertown, NY with snowshoes and cross-country skis in my car. I think I’m prepared to enjoy the famous North Country winter I’ve heard so much about. I stopped along the East Coast in Boston, then Vermont, and headed through the heart of the Adirondacks. Only a fraction of the leaves were still hanging on. I arrived in Watertown with 60 miles per hour wind pushing me down the road. I can feel that winter coming, as more frequent storms shake the trees clean.
The closer I came to Watertown and Fort Drum, the more people I met along the way who knew where I was headed. More and more people I met had personal stories about this seemingly remote place. It does feel remote to an outsider — farm land, vast forested areas — but tens of thousands of people from all over the country make this their home.
What does “finding America” mean? It assumes that something is lost or hidden. When it comes to life in a military community, there is a growing gap between the families of those who serve and those who do not. It’s not that we don’t know they are there, but we don’t have the opportunity to sit with the people who live that life every day.
That’s my job.
Localore was developed as a combination of local and folklore. That’s really at the heart of this project that we’re calling Homefront: Fort Drum. I get to explore how people build their lives in a place that many will never visit. Thousands of people who have served in our country’s wars live here with their families. For the next nine months I will discover how that singular fact shapes a community. I will seek to capture their triumphs, love stories, and struggles. I will follow my curiosity and see what connects those who serve with those who do not. With this project we aim to paint a cultural portrait of one community and share those stories far and wide. We also want it to be fun. This is a unique opportunity to bring understanding through storytelling, a core mission of public media.
I’m thrilled to working with NCPR on this project. I’m also excited to get to know the dynamic NCPR audience over air, online and in person.
Independent producer Meredith Turk will spend the next nine months living in Watertown, NY, and reporting the stories of military service members and their families at Fort Drum, home to the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. She will work in collaboration with North Country Public Radio on a national project from the Association of Independents in Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The national project is called Localore: Finding America. NCPR is one of 15 sites across the country to experiment with new ways of storytelling in public media. This collaborative project is called Homefront: Fort Drum.