No. 1 Crime City - In another blow to the Motor City's tarnished image, Detroit has become the nation's most dangerous city, according to a private research group's analysis, of annual FBI crime statistics. Nov 18, 2007 The Associated Press.
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I live here in a city where death is a part of everyday life. Murder is so common that many are never even reported in the local news, its just not important enough, maybe a homeless vet, or another non-taxpayer type. I was born, and still live between Remington and Winchester on the south side of the infamous 8-mile road in Detroit long before any Movies or Rappers.
My Mother and Brother were murdered here as well as many of my close school friends and of course their brothers and sisters as well, again, just a way of life. My first day at Pershing High School I watched one student stab another in the chest with a fork outside the lunchroom. When 8 mile and Ryan St. hosted the first area Jack-in-the-box one of my brother’s, while working there was walking outside dressed up as “Jack” and was thrown through the restaurant plate glass window by several Detroit-Clown-Haters.
Race Riots, nightly arsons, taking the aluminum siding off your house while your sleeping inside, or steeling the power transformers from local business overnight for salvage copper, as well as the downright theft of the alter candlesticks from local churches, well I guess by now you pretty much get the picture.
Add to all this, the current state and, future projections of the car driven economy in Motown, considered by most to be in the greatest financial distress of any city of any state in the union and expectations of recovery, termed like most evolutionist’s thinking; waved at in scores of decades, which of course in reality means, never.
Now that I have described the mixture of this cake let me pause to add the icing. The most polluted annex within this city of Detroit is “Del Ray” the doorway of the coke and steel processing mills on the Detroit River and the gateway to “Zug Island”. Also, I might add, the home of Detroit’s waste processing plant where, daily, human and other waste is burned, which allows for its rich and varied olfactory ambience. In summer, the odor of which must reach the gates of Heaven itself and to quote one college student seeking summer work here, a visitor to the area: "Abandon all Hope, All Who Enter" the words from Dante's Inferno.
In the midst, or should I say “mists” of all this, in this very place, is exactly where I have found real Angels, and how I came upon them is both remarkable, and wonderful.
To start let me explain that unemployed, I have been trying to find a job in this ravaged Motown financial community, and it has not only been futile, but extremely stressful. After every failed attempt, and every turned down resume, I could easily turn on the local news and watch another company leave Michigan, hear how Michigan has the highest foreclosure rate in the nation or, worse learn of the Big Three automotive manufactures, the bastion of Detroit, laying off, or early retiring thousands of more workers, which in its wake allows for a continuing, devastating trickle down erosion.
Finally in shear desperation one Sunday, inspired after church, I scraped up a buck and a half and got newspaper hoping that these want ads might produce some new opportunity. After searching and calling on several options without results, I noticed, in a section of the paper that I never looked at before, openings for drivers with Commercial Driver Licenses or “CDL’s”, in fact I saw that there were a lot of company’s willing to hire and pay well, seamed like a pretty much recession - proof industry. One catch of course I didn’t have a “CDL” nor did I know of anyone who did, or have any idea of how to drive an 18-wheeler.
Then staring again at the same ads I noticed one ad for a CDL school. What the heck I thought I didn’t have a dime to my name but I called anyway and at the other end of the line got to talk to a career counselor named “Bill” at the “U.S. Truck Driver Training School” out near Zug Island on the west end of Detroit. He encouraged me to come in and see what we could do and with very little options left, I did. He went over the program and the income potential and I got to say I was excited. Then of course we looked at what it cost and I knew I could never afford it, however he told me to apply for credit against a future employer and even though my credit sucked I put in for it anyway, and after going home deflated, I prayed. He called that very afternoon and said I had been credit accepted to attend the school.
Wow, I thought finally a break, some light at the end of the tunnel that wasn’t a train after all. Then after the shear overwhelming joy of the situation waned off, I realized, I would be driving a truck the size of an airplane, and to be honest I was frightened, I really never expected to be accepted after so many disappointments, and now. I mean when I was younger I had accomplished a few pretty dangerous stunts but the last few years of my adult life had been pretty much centered around semi-office type employment what did I know about maneuvering a huge truck.
Still at eight AM the next Monday I was in class with several other “newbies” ready, willing, and as much as possible able for what was to come. Fortunately for me (and by the grace of God) the people and instructors at this school really carried about their students, not what I had expected from hard line truckers, if you know what I mean. So pretty much everything went on well and the first week or so as we plowed through all the regulations and inspections necessary for the license, and then the class, “en mass” went to the Secretary of State and got our permits so that we could now go “On The Road”.
Many pundits, and sages have said over the years; that stretching yourself to the boarders of your endurance is a sure way to gain personal character and fortitude. Well that may be true, but I for one, sitting in the back seat of that truck with some of my fellow students, for the first time with the instructor driving down the streets, felt like this was something that might be just out of my grasp, and old dog with a considerable new trick to learn.
I watched steadily as he maneuvered the semi slowly around the back roads of Del Ray, not a part of town I or anyone else would normally attend. As we moved on I saw the endless empty buildings of a ghost town. With the desperate anticipation of my turn at the wheel, and after all this, I looked up at the gutted desolates and burned out shells of vacant ruined buildings lining the roadway and with surprise saw for the first time the Angels looking down and smiling at me.
Now I was brought up Christian, so notwithstanding the very idea, and concept of what constitutes Angelic messengers has been ingrained into me early on. From the Old Testament through to the Annunciation, to Joan of Ark I thought I understood the stories of these wonderful winged spirits of the Lord, but I was wrong.
Like the story of the man caught in the flood, sitting on his roof watching the rushing waters all around him, praying to God for deliverance. And when a boatman finally came by, he declined him, saying he was awaiting the Lord to transport him. Then when the man at last drowned in the raging storm and went to heaven God asked him “why didn’t you get into the boat I sent for you”?
That is how I had thought of Angels. They had to be winged Seraphim or brandish swords of fire, and although that is exactly what these Angels were, they certainly weren’t quite what I expected, as if I guess, Angels really ever are.
Yet as I looked up I saw the grand sublime beauty of each one. Some weathered from the toxic environment surrounding them, but most still shinning as the day they were created, and at that very moment I was uplifted in spirit, and strengthened in my heart.
That here in all of this, and in the panic and confusion of my mind, God’s Angels, in the very last place on the face of this earth you could expect them, in the midst of Zug Island, Del Ray, Detroit, in the middle of Dante's Inferno, Angels looking down at me, encouraging me, singing to me, “peace”.
I couldn’t believe my eyes that here they were hanging on the gutted businesses and abandoned buildings along the narrow roadway, little splotches of bright color dotting the gray landscape, on every building, Angels of every kind, and shape. Along the neglected, pothole-pitted streets, the air is thick with the foul; industrial fumes that belch forth from Island and the waste treatment center, Angels, Seraphim, Cherubim, Ophanim, Thrones, Virtues, Dominions, Principalities, Powers, Authorities, Archangels, Malakhim, Ben Elohim, Mikail, Israfil, Ishim, and many, many, more.
I have since discovered that these “Angels of Del Ray” were the inspiration of Carl Kamulski artist, and Wayne County Community College instructor who orchestrated the original 114 celestial sentinels (4 feet tall, 3 feet wide) made from plywood, and painted by artists from the tri-county area, community leaders, Delray residents and schoolchildren, gracing one of the most blighted, polluted, crime ridden neighborhoods in the world”.
I continue, as a student, to drive this 18 wheeler down this old road, and I see them almost every day, looking down smiling, encouraging, and they continue to not only inspired me to persist through this, but they have also forced me to continually reevaluate myself, and the place I am in, and have given me a new and profound hope for the future, for not only myself, but also for this City, and for all the people that live in it as well.
I truly thank God for these “Los angeles del Delray”, of Zug Island and, for anyone who needs uplifting in dark moments come here and see these Angels at work for yourself, however, I also recommend that you do come during daylight hours.
Note: To participate in the ongoing “Del Ray Angel Project” and for a link including pictures, visit www.artarea51.com, or contact Carl Kamulski by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 313-715-8010. PS - Carl has informed us that there are now 140 of these Angelic Celestial Sentinels in place, or e-mail me at email@example.com.
Also Note: There were several other Angels in Del Ray in the St. John Cantius Church which was originally a wood-frame structure built in 1902 by 39 Polish families. This Catholic Church was just closed in October 2007 and pictures of these Angels are still available on the web.
Final Note: My great and heartfelt thanks to all my teachers, instructors, career counselor’s and administrative staff at the U.S. Truck Driver Training School Inc. of Detroit I highly recommend them as really caring people, and would also like to point out that they also test & certify drivers for Church Busses (313-581-1700).
Special Thanks: To my Family, and all at Renaissance Unity & Saint Matthew’s Churches for their continuing support.
PS: Just for the record, this is a true story. Via Con Dios ©2007 Grant