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June 2012
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Simplest decisions can decide our fate

By REBECCA WALTER Community Columnist

When we take a step back and reflect on how we got here, the journey through time is never short of fascinating.

The journey I'm referring to is how we get to the places we are born, the cities where we grow up and become who we are.

For me, like many other Paducah natives, my roots to this city can be traced back to the opening of USEC and the jobs the plant created.

USEC, or the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, was the only uranium enrichment facility owned and operated in the United States.

My grandfather, Carl Walter, came to Paducah in 1951 after completing his studies in chemical engineering at Ohio State University. He's now 84 and still living here.

He grew up on a farm in the small town of Carroll, Ohio, and was the youngest of three sons. Since his two older brothers decided to stay at home and keep up the family farming business, there was no room for my grandfather. He had to venture out and decided to obtain an education.

After graduating and entering into the post-war workforce, he was presented with two choices: either work at a whiskey distillery in central Kentucky or move to the western side of the state to work at USEC, which was then Union Carbide.

The choice he made is apparent and when he moved to Paducah, he began attending St. Paul Lutheran Church. There he met my grandmother, Margaret Baumer, also child of a Lutheran farmer who had lived in Paducah her whole life. I am not typically a believer in fate, but I am in this instance.

Three sons and eleven grandchildren later, the rest is history.

It is mind-boggling to think if my grandfather hadn't chosen to venture out to Paducah, he and my grandmother would have never met and none of their experiences and numerous lives would have happened. The simplest fact of where he decided to move is why I am here today, along with my father, uncles and cousins and so on.

If distilling whiskey had appealed to him more than enriching uranium, the whole story would have a different ending.

With the recent closing of USEC, I began to realize businesses and the jobs they create do not simply mean a paycheck and a way to get by. They mean families and the places people live out their lives. They are the foundation for our daily routines and the experiences that shape us.

The simplest decisions can decide our fate and lead to endless possibilities for the future. The closing of a business could mean two individuals never meeting, never having the chance to fall in love and start a family. My mind hates to wonder of the chances in people's lives being missed by the closing of USEC. It is what I and countless other Paducah residents owe our very existence to.

It seems there is no limit to the places you can end up in this world, and even the smallest change or decision can dramatically alter the outcome.

In all of our family trees, there are branches that twist and turn, forces that direct the branches and make the tree unique. A promising young man's path being directed to this town is why I am here.

I am thankful the roots in my life are planted in this town and amazed by the decisions that planted them here.

Rebecca Walter is a senior at Murray State University where she is news editor of the campus newspaper.

You may reach her at


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