Thanks, John, for staying on top of Richmond’s changes.
My family dropped into Richmond in 1994. I now live very close to where we first rented. Unlike in 1994, a gunshot is an unusual happening. Richmond was a scary place to many people in the 90s. For a couple years, I volunteered feeding the homeless with Pennies for Heaven (now shut down) every weekend. Okay, I’ll admit I was twelve, and I was partially in it for the free Krispy Kremes at the end of the “shift.” We went to a few parks, and some very eerie parking lots. I remember my dad telling me not to wander past the parking lot edges. The adults instructed a friend and me to drop if we ever heard a shot. At one particular lot, houses without windows or utilities loomed around, and women and children would file out of unknown doors in the dead of winter to take armfulls of whatever could be grabbed. Men mostly rode up on bikes, rank with the smell of alcohol and urine. As a kid, I only felt pity for the other kids, who had no choice or even an idea of what life was like across a bridge, or highway that divided “them” from kids safe in warm houses. I’ve driven past many of these areas since and, even in the most blighted areas, there is not nearly the same level of despair that I clearly remember from my first few years in this city.