We woke Saturday morning to the news that we had feared after smelling smoke last night. The mayor had called in the National Guard because violence had broken out in several Chicago neighborhoods including the one I was visiting. He had also ordered a curfew at dusk for anyone under 21. Since we were all under 21, it included us. I had been scheduled to leave town on Friday, but was still waiting for a safe time to leave.
We spent another day hunkered down. The fires were several blocks away and did not get any nearer to us than on Friday night. We had no idea of what was going on outside, beyond what we could hear on the radio and read in that morning’s paper.
Anyone who has been caught up in widespread violence knows how deeply unsettling it is. I had been a fairly carefree college junior just visiting that maybe boy friend. Suddenly I had found myself in the middle of rioting just a few blocks away. I had no idea when it would end or when I would be able to leave Chicago for my own college. And I had never felt so “white.” It didn’t matter that I deeply mourned King’s murder, supported civil rights, had picketed Governor Wallace when he ran for President, or had a diverse set of friends. All that was obvious was that I was out of place in that neighborhood. I stayed put.