My preteen legs run fast to the top of my great aunt and uncle’s Myrtle Beach motel.
It’s pouring rain, and half a dozen of us cousins are racing to the top of the Midtown Motor Inn to see the rain falling over the ocean.
We sit at the top on that green artificial turf that covers the stairs and balcony floors.
We talk, watch the rain, climb on the stair railings like monkeys.
And now, more than a decade later, I drive by that old motel and remember how innocently happy we were running around those floors, swimming in the motel pool, knocking on guests’ doors and running away.
I remember us getting our own motel room for our cousin sleepovers, jumping on the two beds that had coin slots which made the beds vibrate – something you don’t see anymore. I remember grabbing warm towels out of the big dryer to help fold and put on the cart that took the clean towels to rooms.
I’ll never forget our countless trips to the Pavilion – my favorite amusement park that isn’t there anymore. I nearly cried when I heard it was going away.
I’ve been back in the area for about a month, reporting at The Sun News – a paper my family and I drove by tons of times when I was growing up.
But now I’m seeing the things I never saw in my lack-of-understanding-the-bad years.
A prostitution bust.
Police arresting someone in connection to drugs in an Ocean Boulevard hotel.
A Coastal Carolina football player charged by police with criminal sexual conduct, which I found in a routine look through police reports early one morning.
Part of me wonders – has there always been this much crime? Or did I just not know of it when I was a little girl? I’m not sure if that question can be answered.
But I’m so thankful for my job – a job that lets me dig into those issues, shine light where some may not want it shined.
I know it’s important to shine that light. I know families on vacation should know what’s going on. And I know locals should know the dangers around where they live.
Though I miss my young years, growing up ignorant to the bad stuff, I’m happy to be back to make a difference in the area that helped raised me.
Follow reporter Hannah Louise Strong on Twitter @HannahLStrong.