Monday, July 23, 2007

Where Were You . . .

. . . when the riots broke out in Detroit?

I know where I wasn’t. I wasn’t anywhere near a television set, or a newspaper or anything or anyone that alerted me to the grim events which were taking place in the city in which we had been living for nearly a year.

We were living in an upper duplex on Detroit’s east side, trying to figure out exactly what was involved with being the parents of a three-week old baby. When he slept, I slept, which explains why we hadn’t been paying attention to our usual news sources. When I got up in the morning and slipped round to the grocery store, I was surprised to find the doors locked. As I turned to leave the store and go home, I had the surreal experience of seeing tanks coming along the street toward me, together with a company of the National Guard. I asked a bystander for information and the answer sent me scurrying back home.

I don’t remember what we did for the rest of the day—I’m sure we had the television on—but I do remember that in the evening I was sitting on the little back porch of the duplex. It wasn’t the smartest place to be: we lived about five houses off Kercheval, one of the main spokes from downtown Detroit. The looting and burning were reaching out towards the suburbs via these main thoroughfares. I don’t remember being afraid. I must have been, because we could hear the gunshots and see the flames from burning buildings. I am pretty sure we didn’t even consider trying to retreat to a safer place. For Ernie it was a repeat performance: he had lived in Los Angeles during the Watts riots the year before.

By the next day things had calmed down a little and the city and its inhabitants began to count the dead and clean up the mess. I leave it to the historians and the politicians and the sociologists to analyze the causes of the riot and the repercussions. This is the fortieth anniversary of the riot. That tank rolling down our neighborhood street is a sight I will never forget.

1 comment:

candyschultz said...

We were in Cedar Point and had no idea until we got near Detroit and saw the smoke. I was 14.