Shortly after the Orlando massacre, Cari and Lauri Ryding hung a Rainbow flag outside their home as a sign of solidarity. They had always felt welcome on Strawberry Hill Road in Natwick and so they knew that hanging the LGBTQ Pride flag was the right thing to do.
But, after returning from vacation they found that their flag had been stolen and their house and porch had been pelted with eggs. Cari said they were in shock, after having lived so peacefully in the neighborhood, but it was what happened next that really stunned the couple.
After alerting the local police, they posted questions to Facebook, asking the neighbors if anyone had seen anything; no one did and still there are no suspects. But the Ryding’s neighbors were outraged, and one neighbor, Maura Gaughan, sprang into action. She contacted the Rainbow Peace Flag Project, a local organization that gives away flags to Natick-area residents.
And on the next Sunday morning a group of neighborhood children on bicycles delivered rainbow flags to each and every house on the block; and one by one, every house was decorated with a Rainbow flag emblazoned with the word “Peace.”
“It just happened so quickly — the whole neighborhood said, ‘Get me a flag. Get me a flag. Get me a flag.’ If we can stop whatever hate is out there, I think that’s really important.” — Penni Rochwerger, a neighbor
Lauri Ryding was busy cleaning off the eggs from her porch when she spotted a Pride flag, and as she walked through the neighborhood she saw more and more; on doors and fences; flying high from a flagpole; hanging on a gate.
Lois McGillivray has lived on Strawberry Hill Road for 50 years and she was one of the first to fly the Pride flag:
“I have never met anyone who would do what that person did to that house. This is a place where nobody bothers anybody, no matter how you want to live, as long as you’re not digging up the garden and throwing the dirt in my yard.”
Neil Podolski is Jewish, and he instantly took a flag to fly in front of his home:
“It’s just not right. Who’s to say tomorrow we don’t find a swastika on our house?”
The Ryding’s, after finding their home vandalized, did what most of us might do: they thought of leaving, feeling that maybe the neighborhood wasn’t so safe. But what the neighbors did, in solidarity, “completely overshadowed that fear and we are just overwhelmed with the kindness and generosity.”
All in all, there are now forty houses on Strawberry Hill Road m and the surrounding neighborhood, flying the Pride flag in Peace.
Times do change, y’all.