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Friday, July 30, 2021

Letter: Let Us Pass by Phil White

This letter was submitted by Phil White, Director of Kingdom Games.

I love and hate this border with Canada.

Living in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont on Lake Memphremagog often feels like living on the edge of the world, away from it all. Our working landscape of farms, fields, and forests is one of the quietly most beautiful places in the world. We are backed up against the Canadian Border, forgotten by many; deeply loved by a few. We like it that way. Brings our small communities closer with our hugs and grudges.

Just across the border, you’re in a different land. There’s some rich cultural diversity, within a stone’s throw. There are restaurants serving crepes, French bistros on the waterfront, poutine stands, Montreal smoked meat and everything French in Magog, Sherbrook, Montreal, and Quebec. Montreal is just a two-hour drive, Quebec City, three. And the friendships forged “on the other side” run deep, with many shared adventures and lots of laughs.

What’s to hate is that this border can seem like the Berlin Wall. Back before 9/11, most locals could cross the border back and forth with a wave (or in one case, with a Jay Peak Season Pass) After 9/11, when security understandably tightened, some just won’t cross it, or get the necessary documents to do so. Now that it’s officially closed, the total separation has grown to become almost intolerable.

I’ve been organizing outdoor running, biking, and swimming events for over a decade. Every chance I get, I host an event that crosses this border. We run and ride around the lake.

In 2011, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, a few of us organized a cross-border amateur swim the 25-mile length of the lake, with the cooperation and assistance of border authorities on both sides.

We call the swim In Search of Memphre. One of the purposes of this swim is to promote a more open border with our Canadian friends, even as we support law enforcement’s efforts to keep us safe. In the past 10 years, over 40 amateur marathoners (and their pilots and crew) have completed this swim.

This year, we have a strong group of nine marathoners joining The Search. They will all have been vaccinated and trained. They are straining on their leash to swim the length of Lake Memphremagog in 2021.

The Border has been closed for a year now. And the closure has just now been extended another month to April 21, 2021, with no end in sight and no discernible or clear plan forward.

With vaccines becoming widely available on both sides of the border come April, May and June, we have a simple, deep-in-our bones plea:

Open our border, at least to those who have been vaccinated.

Let us pass.

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