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Guest column: Sharing thoughts from my front lawn view

"The 19-year-old felt comfortable enough and took the opportunity to cool off. He waded out into the deeper water, his intention was to take a break from the oppressive heat."

Remembrance
A view of the memorial along Sailboard Beach to remember the 19-year-old Guatemalan who drowned there on July 11, 2022.
Bill Keitel
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Editor's note: The Nobles County Sheriff's Office has not released information, including the name or address of the victim in the July 11 drowning in Lake Okabena.

WORTHINGTON — It was a dirty, dusty and dangerous journey for this Guatemalan to end up across the street from where I live.

He fled his home country and arrived in southwestern Minnesota. He left a country that he loved, it was a country of his birth, a country that had become intolerable. At 19 years of age his country held little promise, food was in short supply, work was brutal or non-existent and violence.

People don’t leave their home country on a whim, people flee because of impending doom or destruction of their lives.

In a quaint little town in the Upper Midwest of the U.S.A. he found refuge and shelter. He had recently graduated from high school and the previous day celebrated receiving his work visa.

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He had just celebrated the Fourth of July.

Fireworks displays were launched by this small city; it was a calm and perfect evening and the display was glorious as it reflected off the still waters of the lake.

Many of us have no concept of hunger, of war, of violence and of murderous social upheaval.

Bill Keitel
Bill Keitel

In this newly found community he found himself surrounded by fellow countrymen and women living in peace and harmony with the local population and numerous other refugees and immigrants.

Small prairie towns in the Upper Midwest struggle mightily to maintain their population base.

This newfound immigrant/refugee was our salvation.

A hog processing plant in the community provided hope, hard work and employment for those willing to do a job that most all of the white population had no interest. The processing plant paid wages that allowed newfound immigrants stability and a level of prosperity that they had not found in their own country.

Imagine fleeing and then finding refuge with your fellow Guatemalans.

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It was the promised land, the promised land that our great grandfathers told us stories about. Hard work and perseverance would provide anybody with hope and a better life.

The week after the Fourth of July was as hot as if a matchstick had been struck. The cool water in this lake was refreshing, many immigrants do not have enough money to buy an air conditioner.

He was surrounded by a community that exuded politeness, he was surrounded by many people from disparate cultures, he was surrounded by people living together with little or no violence.

His trepidations, his fears, his anticipations had led him to this newfound paradise along with his family and friends.

The beach was in front of our house and it was shared by everyone from every culture. The afternoon was perfect with a light on shore breeze, families enjoyed this time of relaxation and they could put their harrowing past in the distance.

The 19-year-old felt comfortable enough and took the opportunity to cool off. He waded out into the deeper water, his intention was to take a break from the oppressive heat.

Little emphasis is placed on swimming when you come from a war torn country.

It is currently thought that he accidentally lost his footing on the sloping lake bed he slipped under the water. In those few short minutes just yards from shore, his family looked on in horror, no one was able to save him.

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We would have met him sooner or later, but tonight on Sailboard Beach we attended an observance for a friend we never had the chance to know.

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