What Civil Unrest is Really Like: We Survived the Ferguson Riots.
A very well written tale of life in suburban Ferguson leading up to the Riots of 2014.
We considered moving to Ferguson in the fall of 2001. We were expecting twins and decided to buy a house in an affordable suburb of St. Louis. We had friends who lived in the area, and they liked it. What greater reference to the quality of the community than someone who already lives there, right? We found a great starter house on the corner of two of Ferguson’s four main streets.
The house we chose to purchase had a small backyard, a decent sized front yard, and room for the two children we were expecting at the time to play.
How it all started
We pulled into our driveway on the afternoon of August 10, 2014, having just gotten back from a trip out of town. After tucking the kids into bed, I got some things in order and started working on a project at my desk when a friend of mine messaged me asking if I was all right. Okay, that was a rather odd question out of the blue. I told her I was fine and asked her why she was asking. She told me that there were riots going on in Ferguson.
I knew my friend, and I trusted her. But you know that feeling…the one that says, “It can’t be as bad as she’s making it out to be.” Yeah, it’s real, and it’s called normalcy bias. According to Wikipedia(which I’ve been told never to quote):
“Normalcy bias is a belief people hold when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the likelihood of a disaster and its possible effects, because people believe that things will always function the way things normally have functioned.” (source)
I didn’t know it at the time, but that was exactly what was going on in my head – it can’t be THAT bad because nothing like this had ever happened to me before. BUT since I knew she wouldn’t lie to me, I opened a new tab on my browser and started looking up “Riots in Ferguson.”
… As we watched and listened online we saw and heard screaming and yelling, threatening gestures, profanities being hurled. I saw one side moved forward and the other side moved back….
That night things got out of control. Businesses were burned stores were looted, most of them were still about a mile away from us. We watched and we were saddened, but there was no reason to believe that but the events were going to get closer to us. We were safe, right?
When do we leave?
This cycle of fairly calm days and vicious nights continued the next few days. By Wednesday, we had seen that this wasn’t going to go away quickly. The protests seemed to be growing each evening – at least a little. So Thursday, I packed several suitcases and put them in the back of the van – where they stayed. …
The question started growing in our minds. When do we leave? We knew our family needed to be protected, but how close to our house is too close? I’ve read articles where people talk about ‘buggin out’ like there is that one right moment to bug out. Anything before that is just worry. Anything after that is foolishness.
There is no cut and dried “perfect time to leave” while you are living in a dangerous situation. The struggle is a real. You don’t want to leave too soon and foolishly waste resources or overtake friend’s houses unnecessarily.
They found jobs in another state and relocated. They left town quickly the night before the jury verdict was announced in the Michael Brown shooting. The commercial areas around their home were burned and looted.
Quite a story. And their summary:
What we learned
So if I could leave you with a few takeaways, they would be these:
- Don’t think it could NEVER happen to you. We lived in a small town surrounded by wonderful people. I would never have dreamed …..
- Being ready for the unexpected is a MUST! I have a friend who asked me why in the world she should keep items together (like a BOB or Grab-and-GO bag) in case they had to evacuate. You never know when you literally have five minutes to be out of the house before unrest of one sort or another reaches you.
- Learn to use social media to your advantage. We would stalk Twitter and more specifically #Ferguson on Twitter. What we saw either could keep us in our house or evacuate us at a moment’s notice.
- Having items that you keep in your car all the time is VERY helpful in case you ever need to leave quickly. We keep various tools, foods, drinks, first aid kits and more in our family vehicle.
- Watch for the effects that stressful situations may be having on your children. Learn to notice the differences and do what you can to mitigate what they are going through.
“This [normalcy bias] may result in situations where people fail to adequately prepare themselves for disasters.” (source)