Saturday, October 23, 2010

Who Weeps For Detroit?

My St. John's friend and fellow Detroiter Tom Tierney sent some amazing photos of the Motor City in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, then vibrant, now decayed almost beyond imagining. This one was taken downtown at the corner of Woodward and Fort St. in 1952, two years before my birth. That could be my dad in front of the bus, eying my mother in the flowered skirt. Not really, but you know what I mean.

At a luncheon on Thursday, I met another Michigander, Justin McCusker, who handles governmental relations for South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa and is writing a doctoral dissertation for USC about imaginative ways to promote Detroit's recovery. As much as 40% of the land within the city limits is vacant. Bringing it back from decades of economic dislocation and abysmal management, Justin said, will take the best ideas we have (including his; he's incredibly passionate about the subject).

To underscore how the city's trauma has slipped into the shadows, Justin asked how many of us had even heard about the Sept. 7 firestorm that destroyed 71 widely spaced Detroit homes before firefighters could even arrive. None had.

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