Hope, love undeterred by border closure

Published: Apr. 2, 2021 at 6:32 PM EDT
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DERBY LINE, Vt. (WCAX) - The closure of the U.S.-Canadian border has been devastating for communities on both sides. Businesses are suffering, but so are relationships. Ike Bendavid visited Derby Line and found resilience, hope, and a couple meeting in person for the very first time.

The pandemic is shutting down many things, but it isn’t stopping love. “Of course I really want to hug her and kiss her, but I can’t,” said Hector Poblete. The Montreal man can’t -- even at a few feet apart -- hand his Derby Line love interest a gift. They are separated by a few flower beds which represent the international border, which has been shut down since the start of the pandemic a year ago.

The intrepid couple -- she prefers to remain anonymous -- started talking online in February and met for the first time Friday under the watchful eye of border patrol and security cameras. “I mean, this is the first time I met her live, because we met each other from the internet,” Poblete said.

Hector Poblete of Montreal meeting with his Vermont love interest at the Derby Line...
Hector Poblete of Montreal meeting with his Vermont love interest at the Derby Line international border.(WCAX)

And they aren’t the only ones waiting for the border to open back up. Sitting right next to the border is Jane’s Cafe. Owner Jane Mcintyre says no cross-border travel means fewer customers, especially when those regulars are from Canada. “It doesn’t take a lot, a tiny little place like this with no employees. You rely on the regulars, so 10 or 15 people who can’t come any more makes a big difference,” she said.

And that ghost town feel continues throughout the village. “I have seen times where single pump had a car, and now with no Canadian business it’s pretty quiet,” said Keith Beadle, a village trustee and resident. He says the community misses its neighbors to the north and the ripple effect can be felt in other Vermont communities. “It certainly has had some impact on the village here and I would imagine even more impact on business further down the road in Derby and in Newport.”

Despite the challenging circumstances, Hector Poblete says it was a successful first date. “Very well -- it’s official,” he said.

As for when the couple can meet without a border between them, that remains unknown.

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