It was four years ago this month that the horror began. She began to smell a foul odor when she turned the water on in her dirty apartment on Flint’s east side. Her two small children began to show red rashes on their faces.
In September city officials warned her to begin boiling water before using it. E-coli and coliform bacteria were found in the city’s water supply. Those were new words to Rhonda. They soon became part of her daily vocabulary.
In October, the city’s largest employer, General Motors, stopped using Flint’s water because it corroded engine parts. At times Rhonda thought the state was more concerned about GM’s water than they were for the residents of the city.
By January 2015, residents were being told that the water contained high levels of byproducts from water-disinfectant chemicals—chemicals known to cause kidney, liver and nervous system damage.
Today Rhonda sometimes waits for four hours to get two free cases of water at a time. But mostly she buys water — five cases on Monday, five more cases on Thursday — so she and her kids can cook and bathe and brush their teeth like any other American family.
Filmmaker Michael Moore is a Flint native and made the 1989 documentary “Roger and Me” about the city (which was recently inducted into the National Film Registry.) Moore said of his hometown, “The only difference between your town and Flint is that the Grim Reaper just likes to visit us first.”
Flint Michigan is where I grew up, went to high school, and worked my first few jobs. I was a substitute school teacher where I learned around 6 am what school and grade I was to teach. I worked as a real estate salesman, a job my Aunt got me with her influence with the broker. I learned from that experience that I would never succeed in any sales position. I worked for the Buick Motor Corporation for a few months (graduate school looked a lot more interesting than lifting hoods and fenders and putting them on the assembly line). I spent the next eleven years working for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. This was a perfect example of nepotism in the work place as my dad, and uncle worked there. “Oh your George’s boy”. OK your hired and we want you to start next Monday. I was never given a drug test, never even filled out an application).
When I was growing up in Flint, it was a great place to work because of the auto industry and the suppliers that furnished them parts. The auto industry died out and so did the soul of Flint. Now it is the murder capital of the US.
I’m going to Flint this weekend for a family reunion and catch up with cousins that I had not seen in quite a few years, also school friends from High School and College. I left Flint in January 1980 and have only been back for funerals and a high school reunion.