As someone that’s lived in the Saint Louis area for most of my life – nothing was more shocking than to see what happened in Ferguson, Missouri in August of 2014. Ferguson, one of about 100 smaller towns that make up Saint Louis County was in the spotlight of the entire nation and soon the world – in ways that completely stunned most residents in this area.
For example, if our beloved Saint Louis Cardinals win the World Series – hundreds of thousands of people can descend on downtown at once and it’s rare that there’s even a single arrest. We don’t burn cars after one of our sports teams lose. (Which is good because we wouldn’t have any cars left when the Rams were in town.) Saint Louis has always been a place where nearly everybody knows how to behave. Seeing buildings up in flames, morons blocking highways, police officers in riot gear – it was surreal to think it was happening here.
It’s been more than two years since those initial riots and the little town of Ferguson is still used – by the national news media and politicians as a buzz word for chaos or dysfunction. So one afternoon I decided to visit for myself and see with my own eyes if Ferguson was the scary, hell hole that people around the country continue to tell us it is.
What I Found
The first stop was the apartment complex where Michael Brown was shot. At one point, my tour guide took me to the exact place where his body had been laying on the ground. Listening to the stories about what really went on that day from residents were mind boggling – as the national news media never reported any of the things I’d be hearing all these months later.
It might be worth noting that I can’t remember visiting Ferguson even before the riots. Having lived in Saint Louis County for nearly 30 years, I don’t remember spending any time there. So, my visit was really just like someone from outside of the area.
What struck me the most was how nice many of the neighborhoods were. Some of the houses were so big that I remember gasping when we drove by. When anyone mentions Ferguson on the news – you see scenes of a small section of the town, in the immediate aftermath of the riots. You never see the shopping centers that look just like every other strip mall in every other city. You don’t see the beautiful trees, or the new condos or great places to eat. Those kinds of images don’t fit the narrative of the media or politicians. Yet, there I was – taking in all of these images, thinking “Wait. This is Ferguson?”
I never heard a gun shot. I never saw someone that frightened me. I never saw anything that people hint at when they use “Ferguson” in conversations.
There were areas of lower income housing but nothing different from any other town in America. If anything surprised me – it was that I actually saw homes for sale that I would consider buying.
That’s not say that the area doesn’t have work to do. The school system is a mess, from what I’ve heard. The city has budget problems. But, I loved a couple of the community parks I toured. The downtown shopping and dining options were great. I had lunch at the Ferguson Brewing Company – which is an awesome success story. (Great food, by the way!)
Looking around at the mix of patrons – about half black, half white – most of which I assumed were locals, I couldn’t help but feel horrible for anyone that calls this town home. Can you even imagine waking up in a place that everyone in the world thinks is hell on Earth but has no idea what they’re talking about? My heart really broke for these good people – especially considering we now know most of the people responsible for its current reputation were paid and bused in from other cities. Absolutely disgusting.
As I wrapped up my visit – passing by the Ferguson Police Department and City Hall – I noticed a small store that only sold items with “I Love Ferguson” on them. They love their town – perhaps more than ever because there are so many ignorant people that won’t.
For what it’s worth to the folks living in Ferguson – you’ve certainly got my love.
My husband lived in the apt complex that Michael lived in. Lived there from 1972-1974. In fact it was the same street, Canfield. A little known fact….that complex was formerly called THE VILLAGE APARTMENTS. It was an apt complex for ONLY singles. It was a great place to live and socialize in the clubhouse, pool, golf course. He moved away when we were married. Many relationships there ended in marriage!!!
I guess eventually people started
complaining that marrieds and kids and elderly should also be invited to live there. Then the name changed to Canfield Green. I’m a North County gal, and Ferguson, Florissant, Bridgeton, Hazelwood were great places to raise a family. Like you l, I took a spin through Ferguson recently. I thought Ferguson looked just fine!! If we could only get the media to be silent and quit drawing Negative attention to it we’d all be better off.
It is good to finally see something in print that paints a positive picture about the town that I grew up in and still love! Thank you!
Also, Bill.. My daughter and I met you at media night for the inaugural season of Busch Stadium, 2006. Listen to you on KTRS.
My daughter owns a home in Ferguson, in the area across from police station. She moved from there in 2010, bought a house in Fenton. She has had two renters in the Ferguson house since 2010, the current residents have been tgere since about 2011. They stayed, so that says a lot about the city of Ferguson. My daughter left there to move closer to me-I live in Festus. My daughter lived in Ferguson from 1995-2010, I spent a lot of time there, my brother’s in laws live there and have for 50+ years. His Mother in law is editor of the town newspaper. It’s a great town, very well kept and the people are all loyal. It’s a shame that the media choose to use the name Ferguson as a basis for everything that pops up since that horrible murder. We need to get a petition or take legal action for slandering the city and perpetuating the damage. Like picking at a scab.
Your comment about the local school district is incorrect. Ferguson Florissant School District is a wonderful school district.
My comment on schools was based on actual data and unbiased opinions from locals. I stand by what I’ve written. The district may have some bright spots – but it ranks low overall and the state test scores in math and reading are well below 50 percent proficiency.
Thanks for the great article! This has been my home for 60 years of my life, I am now 64. I love it here and would never think of moving. The residents are what this town is all about. We are all determined to work together and rebuild what has been destroyed, especially by the media. I only wish more people would visit here and take in the businesses that have help build our town.
Again, thanks for what you do for Ferguson
Thanks for this. I have lived in ferguson since high school and have owned a business here for the last 25 years. It has been heart breaking but we are strong and resilient. We live here in diversity by choice. I can’t imagine how boring life must be to live around others that look like me. My business caters to all skin colors and life choices. We wouldn’t have it any other way. It makes like so much richer and interesting.
Thank you for the kind words and truth. I was born in Ferguson. Grew up in Ferguson. I love to go back and visit. During the riots, I tried to get my parents to leave their home and join me in St Charles County. My father would say, “we do not have concerns here”. As you mentioned, the area that the world saw, was a small, pocketed part of town.
Both of my parents passed away in the past year. Mom died peacefully in her sleep on Mothers Day, in the home that she raised seven children in!
I love Ferguson and I own and wear several of the I ❤️ Ferguson shirts.
Thank you again! #Spainfamily
Where did you grow up in St. Louis County?
In Shrewsbury, MO.
Great article!!! I live here, grew up here & moved from Clayton back to Ferguson in the Mid 80’s. My husband and I have restored 3 century homes in the area that rival anything in Kirkwood or Webster Groves. Last month I was interviewed by KMOV as I was out taking a walk in Ferguson. I’m very happy to show & tell what Ferguson is “really like”. We need more articles like yours to tell the real Ferguson.
Thank you for this article. My family moved to Ferguson in 1957 when I was 7 years old. So I grew up there and also raised my children there for part of their lives. I am so happy that you bothered to take the time to take a tour of Ferguson and see that the town is so much more than what the media pretends it to be. I now live in Texas but when I visit St. Louis I always make it a point to support the local restaurants in Ferguson. The businesses deserve that support after what they have gone through in the aftermath of all of the turmoil they endured in 2014.
Thank you so much for this article. I live in this neighborhood and love it.
I’m from Ferguson and meandered through many times since all the rioting. Ferguson has survived it all. Fall and Spring show just how beautiful Ferguson tru is. Older stately homes line Elizabeth, Clay and Church Street. It truly has a small town feel to it. It’s so many positives including it’s residents. Hang in there Ferguson!!
Having grown up in Ferguson and with my parents still in the same home, I was astonished at the portrayal by the mass media outlets. The Ferguson depicted worldwide was fictitious. I went through Hell and back worrying about the safety and health of my family, all because the distorted views spouted by those intent on inflaming the situation. I don’t live nearby. I couldn’t simply hop in a car and be there to defend or assist when the need arose. The true toll is still being counted in the health and welfare of those directly and indirectly affected. Even now, when I am asked where I’m from, I hesitate to answer. Two years on and the stigma remains.
Ah, the counternarrative. Refreshing.
Thank you for a great and honest article! Much love back from a Ferguson
Thank you. You captured much of what makes Ferguson so great. Come back and see the many diverse churches and parks that are part of this historical and lovely community. And hopefully you can check out the custard stand /train museum, the reopening “Whistle Stop”.
Thank you for the wonderful assessment. We’re that and more! Love from Ferguson. Resident for 30 plus years and proud of my city, it’s mayor and everyone of our first responders past and present. God bless Darren Wilson!
Thank you from this Ferguson resident!
Comments are closed.