It’s been three months now since that warm night in June, when Eddie, the local gangbanger spokesman came over to have a word with us, the new neighbors; and 20 years roughly since I returned to my hometown. Always rough-and-tumble, with mobsters, criminals and grifters mixing uneasily with working class rednecks who came north a generation ago; and in-turn mixing with working class and inner-city blacks who came for the same factory jobs.
Those jobs are gone and the city, Rockford, Ill., not only has the honor of the state’s highest unemployment rate — but has now been labeled “The 9th Most Dangerous City in America” by a recent and highly publicized US Dept. of Justice report. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 152,222 people lived in Rockford in 2011.
Editor’s Note: The events described here did not take place in Pensacola, FL; the setting and related details have been changed to protect the identity of the author.
I saw for the first time tonight the outline of a drone over Pensacola, my part of the city. And if you think I’m crazy, well, I hope you are right.
In the past and mostly in the country, I followed the lights up above, as I have always been far more interested in aircraft in the night sky than the seemingly static and painfully unreachable stars and planets.
The blinking lights, nose and tail, trajectories and turns. Color codes and headings. A feeling that something’s there long before it is realized.
For I am the nephew of an accomplished commercial pilot, the son of a command-level cop, both of whom served in the U.S. Navy Air Corps and grew up by the Pensacola International Airport, which used to serve fighter and C-130 training wings. Facing the airport, either right off the runway at grandpa’s or in my driveway 5 miles NE, I watched the touch-and-go’s of the transports nearly every night as a kid, thrilled by the sight of the occasional F-4 Phantom loping in for some reason or another.