The eyes of the nation, and even the world, have been on my hometown, St. Louis, Missouri this past week. We have been in the spotlight for reasons no city wants to be, for racial violence and unrest. This comes in the wake of a shooting by a police officer of an unarmed black teenager. There have been marches, protests, and candle light vigils. There have also been looting and rioting.
I want to start by saying that a young man has lost his life, and that a mother has lost her child. Michael Brown was just eighteen years old, and beginning to start his life. We will never know what he might have become. That is tragic. What is also tragic is what has become of the community that I grew up in, the community that my husband and I choose to call home.
Sunday night, the day after the shooting, we sat and listened to my husband’s police scanner. I was not prepared for what I heard. We heard the slow progression of looters and rioters making their way across the interstate from Ferguson to Florissant, where we live. Windows were broken and property destruction occurred just a few miles from our home. Business owners stood in front of their businesses with AR15’s, ready to protect and defend the livelihoods they have spent years working for from lawless thugs hell-bent on getting what they think is “justice”. A convenience store was burned to the ground. I imagine that the people who were scheduled to work at that convenience store the next day are wondering where their justice is now that they are unemployed. We do not own a weapon. After Sunday however, that will change. Never again will I sit in fear in my own house.
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights have also been spent with the scanner on. Each night, people all over North St. Louis County have wondered if things were just going to continue, would it get worse, would anyone else be hurt. Turns out, they would, a girl was shot in the head, and a police officer was injured when a brick was thrown at him. School districts scheduled to start school this week have been postponed because of tension and unrest. All in the name of justice.
Wednesday night has so far been the worst. In the neighborhood where I got one of my first jobs, rubber bullets were fired, and tear gas hung heavy in the air. Police in riot gear, riding atop armored SWAT vehicles, were headed down the streets that my friend of thirty years, who grew up in Ferguson, and I used to take in college to get to the weekend frat parties near the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
I can only speak for myself, but maybe others are feeling the same way. I have gone through such a range of emotion this week. I have been angry, sad, scared, then mad again. Throw in hopeless as well. Helpless that I feel like I can do nothing to stop this. No one cares if I jump up and down and yell and scream. I have fought with others on Social Media. I have voiced my support for law enforcement. I will support them until I feel there is a reason not to. I have been called names for that. That’s OK, because I will not waiver. I am reasonably sure I have lost friends over my viewpoint of this story. I am sure that some friendships are strained. Maybe that won’t last forever. I can only hope.
It has been stressful for all. Should I get home before dark? Should we turn on the scanner again? What will happen tonight? Local news media continues to fan the flames of violence and hatred. The coverage is never ending, and it goes on night after night. They most certainly have an agenda, and they are most certainly pushing it.
North St. Louis County and the St. Louis metropolitan area are full of so many good people. But those good people are being drowned out by opportunists who seem to be interested in only two things; any nearby television camera, or free Nike sneakers. I want the people of the nation and the world to know that this is not who we are, not what we are about, not what we stand for. We are not the stereotype that our own media wants people to see. When this is all over, where does Ferguson go to get its reputation back?
I am tired. So very tired. Tired of being angry, tired of feeling helpless, tired of the stress. Tired of wondering if this circus is taking my community to a very bad place that we will never be able to return from.
This has been a week in the life of St. Louis that no one wishes would have ever happened.