This is where I grew up… and over the past decade, a little bit is erased away each day. It used to not have much significance in my life. After all, I knew this would come… ‘they’ have been talking about it ever since the early 90s. Even then, even when they took my friends’ houses, or the house where my cousins lived, or my teacher’s house… I was still too young to grasp it… too young to sit up and pay attention…. to care. It wasn’t until I saw the wrecking crew blow through my old bedroom on October 24th, 2006 when finally it all came slamming into my face- this place, this land was all I ever really known. My house, my friends’ and my families’ homes, my sidewalks, pools, parks, churches, schools, businesses… everything… gone. Soon, I will never be able to come back to this place again. If I have kids, I will never be able to show them where I came from. They will never know the place where I once played… the place where I once dreamed of one day leaving… This place that now I come back to wonder what exactly happened… and why.
This place was once a subdivision called Carrollton, located in Bridgeton, MO. It was one of the first planned communities in the U.S. that made sure to include green space, parks, schools, churches, and a community center in its development. Lambert International Airport made a proposal to the city of St. Louis to expand beyond its boundaries and build a new runway. This was pushed because, at the time, St. Louis was a hub for TWA. Despite the fledgling airline industry, the cause for eminent domain was issued in the direction of Bridgeton, including much of the city and all of the Carrollton subdivision. Although fought hard by community residents who formed a group called, “The Bridgeton Air Defense” and a number of legal battles that stretched decades, Lambert ultimately won and started taking homes as early as 1992. 2,000 structures, 2,000 parcels of land have become or will be soon property of Lambert International.
For almost 5 years, every tree in our subdivision was tied with yellow ribbons to show solidarity against the large airport. This gesture was to demonstrate how we were being taken hostage. As a kid, I really thought somehow the little guys would win and we all would get to stay. To a kid, it didn’t make any sense for someone who didn’t want to move to be forced out of their home, and there were a LOT of people who did not want to move. As I got older, school became more important than little issues like bureaucracy, even if it meant my mom’s house at stake. By the time I was old enough to realize that the concrete was creeping in to the edge of the subdivision where we lived… it was too late to care. Or, so I thought, until last year. Watching my own house go down, I realized that the remaining homes needed to be documented too. So, for the past year, I have been watching and photographing what little remains of the original 2,000. As of today, October 9th, 2007… only 56 houses are left.
So, this is their stories… along with the stories of the houses that went down since my own.
I don’t think I will ever understand why an entire community was torn apart for an airport that lost its hub status only a few years into the expansion plan… and for new runway that is only being used 5% of the time. What I do understand is the human tendency to hang on to the past, even if only fragile tangible fragments are left.
Once the 56 are gone… it will be time to move on.