Thursday, May 30, 2013

Quick trip to Cairo, Illinois

I had heard Cairo, Illinois, was a city in decline, but I didn't realize how much until Adam and I drove through there last weekend. He was disappointed in what he saw, and I told him Cairo was like a lot of towns whose best days appear to be behind them.

There were a lot of empty buildings and vacant lots. We drove through the floodwall to look at the river, but we didn't stay in town long because we had other places to be and not much time to be there.

The bad part about that was that we didn't get to call ahead of time and arrange to talk to people who live there about how Cairo is their home and how they're trying to bring the city back despite the obstacles. One of the easiest things for a news person to do is to helicopter into a city, find people who say, "This town is dead, man" and leave. We go back home and write a story about how a place is filled with despair and someone ought to do something about it. And we move on to the next "dead" town.

I knew Cairo had had some problems in the past, but I didn't realize the extent of them until I read this Wikipedia article about the town and its history. When you see the population decline of the past 90 years, you can understand the vacant buildings and empty lots, and you wonder how people there now get along.

Adam and I want to go back when we can spend more time and get to know the town. You can't make a quick trip in and out and pretend you know the place. We're probably the only people we know who really want to spend a week wandering around the Paducah and Cairo areas. Go figure.