Not since March 14th has an official demolition been carried out. In fact, the lineup of dumpsters and the wreckers themselves have been removed from the area in April. Lambert seems to be done for a while, which is completely inappropriate. 17 houses remains mainly intact while 9 others are left in charred ruins, some for months.
So to Lambert Expansion officials, who I hope read this: 26 former homes are left in sickening demise. End this deplorable mess NOW. For the sake of the people who once called this area home, finish what you have started and take out the remaining 26! They’re already displaced and planted elsewhere, but they still deserve dignity and respect! Give them the piece of mind that none of this was done in vain.. tear out the rest of the homes NOW!
Every house that now remains has been vacant for a year or more. Some have been vacant for four years; that is the last time they actually bothered to board up the empty homes. Those houses that once had that courtesy now have their rotten, moldy boards kicked out in the yards from the inside. There isn’t a single windowpane in Carrollton with a full sheet of glass. Most windows don’t even have a fragment of glass larger than a finger left in the frames.
We could say that we should be glad in this economy that Lambert at least got the people out. After all, they dragged their feet on the buyouts as some people waited in that limbo for over a decade. However, it just proves what a bad deal this was from the very start. They didn’t have the money then, and they surely don’t have it now. Its pathetic that Lambert forced some homeowners to wait as long as 2007, close to 15 years to finally move on. Its sick to leave their homes in this state of ruin and limbo for even longer.
Do the people of Carrollton still care? Do the former owners of the 26 remaining see what is happening? Yes they do, and I am witness. Former residents drive through all the time; I see them constantly while I am on my photo shoots. The worst was when I could finally drive two weeks ago, I went down Manteca, where some of my favorite subjects lie in ruin. I saw an old man parked outside the former two-story burn… his hand was over his eyes. Once he looked up and saw me from the opposite direction, he gained composure and quickly drove off.
Try to see it from this elderly man’s (quite possible but surely not exact) perspective: You bought this home when you and your wife were starting out. Maybe you had this home built to your specifications. Either way, you’re proud of your humble home and remained there for many years. Why leave? After all, you raised your kids in this house. However, you learn the fate of the area, and it saddens you. Slowly, you watch the neighborhood go from loving community to a patchwork of vacant lots and empty homes. The schools where your kids went are demolished. Your church is torn down too, and you’re forced to find a new place of worship. You can’t move as well as you used to, but everything else seems to be closing up and going further away. Your grocery store is gone, and so is all the better local eateries, the DMV, the bank, etc. You start to see funny things happening inside the houses where your neighbors once lived. People are breaking in, some people are living in them without water or heat; they must be homeless. Others, you swear are dealers looking for a hideout. You and your wife are scared, but are stuck playing a waiting game with the airport for a buy-out option. Sure, they allowed for some ‘hardship’ cases to get bought up early, but they denied yours. (As what I am finding out, many people who experienced real hardships were denied an early exit from Carrollton- I’m gathering more evidence of this.) You don’t walk down the street anymore, you don’t see any of your old neighbors or friends, and you live YEARS like this. Finally….finally… the letter comes and you realize that the airport’s asking price is about what houses of your square footage and type would have sold for 10 years ago. Instead of waiting 6 months to renegotiate the sub-standard offering, you decide that you and your wife’s safety is first, so its time to take the pathetic hand-out and go. You pack up your memories and start a new life somewhat fairly close to home (most former families live within 10 miles from Carrollton). Curiosity and nostalgia does take us back at times, so you take a drive through your old neighborhood once a month or so on your way home from an outing. At first you see minor, silly things happening to your house… a broken window here, a fallen post there. Someone’s even dug up the dogwood tree that you and your wife planted many anniversaries ago. Then, more worrisome happenings like graffiti and parts of your home wrenched from the exterior. Even more sinister things begins to happen to your home, like layers of graphic and racist graffiti, bullet holes and burn marks. The kitchen sink from which you gave your newborn its first bath has been thrown unceremoniously out of your 2nd story window and onto the lawn. Holes are kicked out and punched through the drywall. Nothing is stopping the vandals, and you just wish the airport would just end it. Yet… finally… you drive by and see the black ashes of what was once your home sprayed across three lots and filling the concrete basement. Lambert bought your land and gave it to the vandals waste.
And those charred ashes, where the old man in is car sat crying, are still sprayed across a ruin of concrete,well over a month later.
What’s done is done- there is a runway that is operational and statistically useless. I’m not angry about the initial harm done in the form of the buyout as I am about the lack of dignity displayed towards the residents of Carrollton. Yes, I have collected priceless photographs and art fodder from my experience, but its going on too long. And when I see my former neighbors in tears, I leave the form of the documentary photographer and start to choose sides.
BTW- Thank you all for your patience in the past month. I am (for the most part) finally recovered from appendicitis and other abdominal surgeries I endured in May. Thank you to the friends and family who monitored Carrollton for me- I know it was not terribly exciting to you, but your help in this project means a lot to me!