“Maybe it’s a bomb,” one of us jested, though I’ll never remember if the words came from my roommate or my own lips. It was the middle of the night in downtown Flint, Mich., and we’d just completed the umpteenth check throughout the two-story house that we rented. The water heater was fine. The furnace was fine. The pipes all seemed to be fine. I went to bed, but still there was this incessant tick-tick-tick.
The explosion brought me tumbling to the floor as the entire house shuddered, groaned and shook like a war-ravaged thing. In a panic, I raced to check on the children. The house across the street was completely engulfed in flames.
It would be one of the last nights I remembered in Flint.
Welcome to Hell (Only Further North)
The gas station attendant literally flinched when I mentioned that I was trying to find my way to a rental property in downtown Flint. “Bad neighborhood?” I queried, and she gave me a pensive look before reluctantly voicing, “Well, it all depends on where you’re moving up there.” I revealed the address and she flinched again.
But sometimes you don’t have a choice. Michigan’s unemployment rate was on the rise and I had two children to support. Finding a house that rented for less than $400 a month was like a dream come true. For that price, we could ignore the spray painting on the house next door and the abandoned houses up the street. If we stayed inside and minded our own business, it wouldn’t be that terrible. After all, most of what you hear on the news is all media hype. It really couldn’t be all that bad, could it?
Does Flint Deserve its Reputation as a Dangerous City?
We only stayed in Flint for a few short years, but I can say they were truly frightening ones. Having attended school in Detroit for eight months, I had this naïve belief that the smaller city was just getting a bad rap. But there’s a big difference between driving through a neighborhood and living in it. When you live there, you witness the despair and darkness firsthand. Flint was a drowning city, desperately clutching at its inhabitants and dragging them down with it.
Gunshots ring out in the night, so frequently that it actually seems eerily quiet when you don’t hear them. Kids are forced to walk through metal detectors and have their belongings searched before they can enter the schools (and my daughter was still jumped and nearly beaten unconscious by other girls). Every day, more people are murdered and more houses are vacated, boarded up and abandoned. The overall feeling is not unlike the city suffering some form of pestilence that’s slowly spreading, creeping from house to house as it poisons and chokes the life from everything it touches.
Flint has earned its “CQ Press” reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. because it’s a dying city, filled with desperate souls who have lost everything. A couple of months ago, I learned that my daughter’s school had burned down and that the police suspected arson. Since then, the three-bedroom house we’d rented burned to the ground – It was one of six Flint homes that an arsonist torched in a single evening.
The news left me with a sad, empty feeling, thinking back on some of the memories that we’d had in that old house. There was a sad, empty feeling and yet… I couldn’t help but feel relieved.
2010 City Crime Rate Rankings from “CQ Press”