From these standing 56, there are three houses left that I suspected as being occupied… and yesterday one of them held a garage sale. Today in front of that little yellow house remains a pile of forgotten furniture and broken fitness equipment. Rising among the stacked debris is a mattress declaring “Free Stuff” in red spray paint. I had previously avoided photographing this house and the other two remaining houses on their block while they lived there. They deserve their privacy against us onlookers who drive by and stare at the curiosity of the area now.
I guess its true… I am now just an onlooker. I can’t really call the place home anymore. Despite the fact that I still remember every street name, even those whose nameplates have been stolen years ago, it only barely resembles home. And, I fear none of it will be accessible for much longer. Today, I witnessed the first sign that the airport is moving in on our side of Carrollton, in the form of the Airport Police patrol car. While photographing the aforementioned home, I saw a cop head up the road. No problem, Bridgeton cops have witnessed my documenting habit for over a year now and have been cool with me standing around the derelict houses. Yet, this time it was not one of the local cops. I was shocked to see the airport logo on this patrol car. The officer slowed down as he approached and deeply glared at me. The Bridgeton cops generally just give me a little nod and let me go on with my business. But this person studied me carefully before driving off. Officially, it is their land now. From less than 24 hours of my standing there, the Airport became the sole owners of all the properties on our side of Carrollton, the north side of Highway 270. It never dawned on me that they would really patrol it. Then again, the Airport is considered part of the City of St. Louis, and not Bridgeton. I don’t know the future plans for this area, but if history repeats itself, the airport will put up a barrier on the street entrances with posted signs declaring a criminal trespass zone; a felony charge. A felony to see the tree my mom planted in our yard. A felony to walk down the fading sidewalk that I walked everyday to go to a friend’s house, or to the bus stop. A felony just to see the sunset against the backdrop of the trees that I used to draw.
Sure, this is progress, and these things happen in life. Obviously, there are worse things in life than being forcefully displaced via bad commerce. However, it is something that has deeply effected the 5,000+ lives who declared the area home. It is evident in the conversations with those who were bought out in the first phase a decade ago, as they still refer to themselves as victims.
The 56 houses will go soon… but I am finding out that its more than just me who cares about what little is left.
Footnote- Prior to October 5th, there were 63 houses. Six houses were taken just last week, and one suffered severe structure damage due to fire. It was the first time any removal had commenced since June of this year. Just this past Friday, all the wrecking equipment has been removed from the area although many houses have been freshly tagged for demolition.