"It takes heart to fight for something so many consider a lost cause..." Unknown, graffiti art
The silence was thick as I climbed a graffiti covered water tower on the roof of the former Packard plant. A hazy sun silhouetted a factory in the distance, billowing steam that made the scene very surreal. My guide, a local who had paid off the security guard to let us in, was on another floor and I felt very alone but not scared. In many ways the massive concrete and steel structure felt like a temple—a living example of man's power to create and destroy—simultaneously beautiful and tragic.
Detroit. I could fill this page with purple prose describing terrible blight and the American apocalypse but it's nothing you haven't already heard. And it's true...all of it...there is deep poverty, crime, and decay. There is also tremendous pride and, most important, soul. It's evident in the people who are quick to defend their city or strike up a conversation. You have to be tough to survive in Detroit but at its core the locals are salt-of-the-earth, hard-working people with humble midwestern attitudes.
I visited many more abandoned buildings in Detroit: a library, that briefly served as a soup kitchen; a catholic church in Poletown; the Fisher body plant; and a former high school with amazing art deco details. All of them had been torn apart by scrappers who take anything that might have value, including electrical wiring, plumbing and metal window frames. Despite being gutted these buildings, where generations of residents lived, worked, studied and celebrated, were not stripped of their essence. The buildings may be abandoned but the soul of Detroit lives on there and in the resilient hearts of the locals who call these streets home.