Thursday, February 19, 2009

Portrait: Detroit, Michigan

I grew up in a suburb of detroit about 45 minutes away. Its in Oakland county which is boasted to be one of the richest counties in the country. I, however grew up in the poor side of this rich county. Which to many and most people, understandably, doesn't get me a lot of sympathy. But my parents worked really hard to get us there. They started in a trailer in detroit, actually THE eminem trailer park, bought a real piece of crap in Redford and then got enough money to move us to Walled Lake. My father started his own business which was really successful, until 1999 when he had a heart attack, discovered a heart disease and was forced to sell his pride and joy, the business on doctors orders. My mother worked for the same company since she was 18. Well actually there were two companies, both were real estate builders, different companies but in the same office. They had worked their way up, and right after I graduate highschool in 2002 they moved to their dream house in Highland, also in Oakland County. This is not your typical extra large dream home but it was exactly what they had always wanted. 2 years ago her boss passed away, and kindly enough left her some money in his will, and because they didn't have a retirement plan, this was a huge sigh of relief for my parents. With this money my parents did something they had been wanting for as long as I can remember, which was buy a small trailer on the Gulf coast of Florida. Its really small, very modest, but they love it. After the boss passed away, my mother continued to work for the other company in the office. But when the economy shifted and people stopped buying, their business started to struggle.

They downsized their office...they moved locations...the cut working hours. They did almost everything they could to keep it running but they hadn't sold a new house in over a year. My parents closed on their Florida house about 3 weeks before my mom lost her job. They paid cash for the house. So now both my parents were jobless, they had two homes in an economy that wasn't selling homes, not to mention they had also just helped me put many repairs into my first home. The guilt that I felt for having taken that money from them was almost unbearable. I started trying to figure out ways to pay them back, but with what I make, and having just bought my first home, there wasn't any extra money.

Mom was put on unemployment. They're still not sure what they'll do. They didn't even get to enjoy a stay in their new home before the news of my mom's job loss came through. Since then, I've had an uncle lose his job of over 25 years. And I've had 2 other friends who have also lost their jobs. Other friends have layoff EVERY Friday at their places of employment. It is a literal week to week question on whether or not you'll be working. And all of these people I'm talking about are hard working, college educated, and dedicated people. I knew Michigan was bad, and people were losing their jobs, but its finally hit home. Not just lazy people are losing their jobs.

While many people disagreed with the bailout, there would have been no hope for Michigan without it. And the trickle effect from the Big 3 going under would have been catastrophic for every American.

Detroit, Michigan