This old town of ours has been getting a lot of bad press of late. Everybody and their brother have felt obliged to offer their two cents about the happenings in Ferguson in particular and Saint Louis in general. Many of these pundits bring nothing more to the discussion than their own personal prejudices. Some of my acquaintances have even felt compelled to join in on the happening there. Some of these have honestly tried to help, while others only came to gawk at the unfolding spectacle. Until now I have refrained from voicing any opinions and in this post I will still not discuss any of the events there during the last two weeks. Instead, I will first touch upon my own limited experiences in Ferguson, but most of all I would like to share what I know of the experiences of three friends from Ferguson.
I live about eight miles from Ferguson, but I work much closer to it, only a couple of miles away. I occasionally go to Ferguson for lunch-hour business with its convenient DMV office. There is a rails-to-trails bike path that runs from UMSL to downtown Ferguson. I have enjoyed using it many times on bicycle commutes to work. It is fast, flat and fun. The Ferguson Brewery has become a favorite watering hole at the office. That’s about the extent of my personal Ferguson experience. It is a small part of a much larger city and as such does not usually command much attention. For my three work related friends from Ferguson though, it is where they all grew up.
I first met John twenty-four years ago. He is a quiet, kind, intelligent and hard-working man. He never puts on airs. His personal kindness to me repeatedly saved my career. His individual effort has created a world-class tool for which this country should be extremely grateful. John is white. He retired last month. John lives in Ferguson and can walk to every house that he ever lived in.
Barbara, I have known for at least fourteen years. Until she retired a few years ago, she was my best friend at work and I miss her there. She first lived in the city, in north Saint Louis. Her parents joined the waves of white flight during the sixties and moved to Ferguson, where she and her eventual husband both grew up. Later, they moved for their daughter to better schools, but both sets of their parents continued to live in Ferguson until their parent’s old age eventually forced other living arrangements.
Frank is still working with me. We’ve worked together for the last four years. In fact his cube is kitty-corner to mine. He also is an intensely hardworking individual. He wasn’t at work this last Monday, because as I learned later he had been called up. Frank is a colonel in the Missouri guard. When the governor formally activated the guard, Frank was freed to return on Tuesday. We’re pretty busy these days at work. He grew up in Ferguson and is the oldest of twelve. His parents and many of his relatives still live there, but Frank has moved over the river to Illinois. We sometimes kid him about his lack of fame compared with some of his more famous relatives. This is usually done after he has regaled us with his latest tales of accolades for his various family members. He heard about Ferguson, while he was on vacation in Birmingham, AL last week. He was there, because one of his cousins was receiving an Emmy for her coverage of the fiftieth anniversary of the church bombing in Birmingham.