LYNN — Within the walls of the city’s auditorium, tales of Lynners were told.
Al Wilson, Executive Director and Founder of Beyond Walls, curated Tuesday night’s event with the help of Associate Director Pedro Soto.
The mission behind the Beyond Walls Mural Festival is to activate space and strengthen communities, which played an important role in planning the evening of storytelling.
Five Lynners and one muralist shared three powerful tales.
“What makes Lynn so special is the people that live here,” said Wilson.
While each story was vastly different, they all related to Lynn and the walls that surround the city. Beyond Walls hopes to have more events such as this one for future festivals, given it’s a way for people in the community to become closer.
The first story is related to the mural at 31 Exchange Street, and was told by Lissette Orellana, who graduated from North Shore Community College three months ago. Her journey to the United States left scars, both emotionally and physically. She was born in El Salvador, near a city where the highly dangerous MS-13 gang was prominent. When she was 6 years old, her mother left for the U.S., leaving Orellana behind to be cared for by her father.
Her father was an alcoholic who didn’t take her mother’s sudden leaving easily. He would stumble home drunk and throw furniture around the house. A year after her mother left, Orellana’s father was killed in a hit-and-run car crash as he was crossing the street to get home. She was waiting for him to open the door, but when it finally did it was her grandmother, who then brought her to her aunt’s house, without telling her what happened.
“Is he dead?” she asked her aunt and grandmother, even though she already knew the answer.
When she was 8, Orellana was told she was going to the United States, by herself. She traveled to Guatemala, where she met up with a large group making the same journey. The group split up and began their trek to their first stop in Mexico, where the driver stole all of her luggage, including everything her mother had given her.
They reached a house owned by a family and Orellana felt positive, until they walked into the tiny, cramped room where they would all be sleeping. All night the group could hear the husband and wife arguing about how the wife didn’t want any of them there. When they woke up the next morning, every one was covered in bloodied cuts, with no recollection of how they got there. Some left scars on Orellana’s body.
The next morning, they were forced to travel along with the luggage in a large coach bus. Diapers were given to them for the hours-long ride and they had to move around the luggage during checkpoints so they wouldn’t be seen. When they finally crossed the border, Orellana was brought to a mansion in California with a family whose children made her act and bark like a dog.
Afterward she met up with relatives of her stepfather, whom she never knew existed, and was reunited with her mother in New York. They made the decision to leave the Big Apple and move to Lynn. Now a college graduate, Orellana is a Dreamer, or DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient, who aspires to own her own comic book store.
The second story is about the mural at 33 Spring St. and how it came to be. “The Protector” was painted by Puerto Rican national David Zayas. The building is currently owned by Lynn native John Kibbey, who inherited it from his mother after she died in 2015. When Kibbey’s mother owned the building, it was known as Side Street Pub.
Given the many opioid addiction issues within his family, Kibbey decided to turn the building into a community hall for addiction meetings. On the first floor, there are 20 meetings a week for those suffering from alcohol or substance abuse. The second and third floors are rented out as apartments for addicts who are working hard to get back on their feet. Kibbey believes if the hall can help save one life in his community, then it’s worth it.
Last year Kibbey was approached by Beyond Walls about using the back wall of his building for a mural. Zayas had his eye on that specific wall and claims it spoke to him, so when Kibbey agreed, he was ecstatic. When the muralist was told about the wall’s position, being the entrance to downtown, he wanted to create something that represented an element of protection.
After seeing Zayas’ final product, Kibbey fell in love with his building all over again, and with the Beyond Walls movement. Now, the community hall owner is part of the festival’s street team, donating much of his time to help prepare for the festival.
“It doesn’t just protect beyond the walls of the city, it protects inside the walls of my building,” said Kibbey.
The final tale was told by longtime Lynn residents Harvey Rowe, Kim Garbarino, and his wife Amy. Rowe is an attorney and an appraiser who works out of 465 Washington St., which has a mural on its way as part of the 2018 festival. Rowe and Garbarino grew up as gym rats at the Lynn YMCA, always challenging each other. Garbarino was, and still is, the kind of guy who has to try his hand at every sport.
Garbarino was a big swimmer as a kid, diving into King’s Beach every day during the warmer months. After years of taking a breather, he picked up the activity again in 2007, with a long shot idea of training to swim across the English Channel. In 2010, he secured a fisherman to judge, but it was unsuccessful.
Refusing to give up, Garbarino asked the fishermen if he could come back and try again, but the next available slot wasn’t until Oct. 12, 2011. Even after questioning how cold the weather would be by then, Garbarino still agreed to the date. The time had come and he was ready for his second go at one of the longest swims known internationally.
When they arrived in England, the weather was horrible and the conditions of the water were even worse. He had to do the swim in 12 hours with no sleep and no crew, aside from his wife. The swim was deemed undoable and Garbarino had to plan it again for the next year, but this time he needed a crew. He called up Rowe, who brought onboard Craig, a young swimmer who competed on the Boston College team.
The following year, Garbarino was back and needed to complete the swim between Aug. 8 and Aug. 12. The first four days were unswimmable due to the bad weather and water conditions, so Garbarino had one full day to complete a 21-mile swim from England to France. He got into the 58-degree Fahrenheit water at 6 a.m. on Aug. 12 but Rowe didn’t think his friend was going to be able to finish.
A few hours in and Garbarino was bitten on the foot by something and was forced to stop. He waited a little bit before starting back up again. As the waves began to pick up, Garbarino began to lose his direction and his crew back on the boat was seasick. More than 15 hours into the swim under a moonless sky and pitch black water, someone from the crew used a flashlight to help guide Garbarino toward his destination.
In order for the swim to be considered completed by one of the fishermen judges, Garbarino needed to have his feet on the shore and his arms up in the air. After 15 hours and 47 minutes of swimming, he found it almost impossible to lift his arms, but he knew once he did, he’d be done. Garbarino mustered up all the strength he had left and lifted up his arms.
“Tell your guy he just finished the English Channel,” one of the fishermen said to Rowe.”