© The Associated Press / Toby TalbotA driver hands his passport to a border agent at the Canada / U.S. border crossing in Highgate Springs, Vt., Monday, June 1, 2009.
A restaurant owner in Vermont held a contest to help Canadians buy passports so they cross the border for a meal. A fire department can't depend on help from a few miles away. A short drive to pick up milk can bring unpredictable delays.
A decade after 9/11, tightened security measures have divided communities on the northern border, where for centuries, people crossed back and forth to shop, work or visit relatives. Where the Green Mountains of Vermont begin to give way to the broad plains of Quebec's St. Lawrence valley, residents acknowledge the need for enhanced security, yet many are frustrated. Most agree life will never be as it was, but they're adapting.
"It used to be real simple. We just went across the border. Sometimes I wouldn't even take my wallet," said Paul Martin, 59, the fire chief in Richford, a Vermont town of about 1,300 near the border.
Now, Martin said, he crosses the border two or three times a week to see his girlfriend in Quebec. He never knows how difficult it will be to come back, an uncertainty that illustrates the disruption of a small-town way of life that had pervaded even across international lines.
"If I get somebody I went to school with, I don't have a problem," he said. "If you get somebody new, they have to inspect everything. It all depends on what kind of a day the inspector is having."