Recovering from a man-made disaster


MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: It’s Thursday the 18th of June, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up: recovering from a man-made disaster.

When peaceful protests gave way to violence, vandals and looters smashed windows and cleaned out stores in cities from Atlanta to Los Angeles. In Chicago, one city official described the chaos as “the wild, wild west.”

BASHAM: In the weeks since then, business owners have been cleaning up and taking stock. Smaller businesses are trying to figure out when—or even whether—they can reopen. What they decide will affect not only their families but their communities as well. 

WORLD reporter Anna Johansen has our story.

ANDRE BALLARD: One of the things that living in the city of Chicago you can hear very distinctly is police cars, sirens. You hear an outcry in the distance.

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: Andre Ballard is the pastor of the Orchard Church in Chicago. He and his wife, Leslie, live in the Near West Side neighborhood.

LESLIE BALLARD: I could hear all night helicopters just hovering so I knew that something was going on.

ANDRE BALLARD: So being in the city of Chicago, you’re exposed and impacted by things that are going on whether it’s hit your street or not.

Looters hit a CVS four blocks away from where the Ballards live. They ransacked jewelry stores, ATMs, cell phone shops. On the northwest side of the city, rioters also hit a small beauty store called Hair Town.

It’s owned by a South Korean couple who immigrated to the United States in 2009. Their daughter-in-law, Jeongwon Yoon, says they had just stocked up on new products and were getting ready to reopen on June 3rd after two months of coronavirus shutdown. 

Yoon was at her in-laws’ house when the rioters hit. She watched the feed from the security camera and saw someone throw a brick through the store’s front window.

YOON: And the glass door was broken and like a bunch of people came in after that. They destroyed the security camera as well. So we lost the connection. My mother in law was completely panic and she even get like—anxiety, anxiety. And fear. She was like really shaking, her body, whole body was shaking.

They called the police six times, but no one ever came. So Yoon’s husband, Jon, drove to the store. 

JON YOON: [SPEAKING]

When he got there, he saw crowds of people.

YOON: (TRANSLATING) People are just kept coming and going and looted, looted. That’s what he was watching, people…coming out, coming out, coming out our store and (the) whole plaza was actually looted.

Jon couldn’t do anything about it. He just sat in the car and watched.

The entire shopping plaza got trashed that night. As did hundreds of other stores across the city. A few days later, business owners started picking up the pieces.

O’HALLORAN: These guys are still waiting for glass. Yeah. Okay, so here’s a bunch that are still getting put back together.

Mark O’Halloran is the director of economic development for a group called Together Chicago. Last week, we drove around the Near West Side neighborhood and he pointed out businesses that got hit. A few windows were still covered by plywood. But O’Halloran says most businesses have been able to reopen.

O’HALLORAN: And we just drove by on Madison Street, a whole bunch of them that have already gotten all the damage taken care of, the glass is back up, the doors have been fixed, spray paint has been washed off, and they’ve restocked with merchandise. So, for those that had insurance, they were back in business within a couple of days.

There are some businesses that haven’t reopened…but O’Halloran says that’s a very small percentage.

O’HALLORAN: The small businesses that experienced looting and damage for whom that event was the last straw, were businesses that were, unfortunately, barely viable heading into all of this. And so for them, they’re out of capital, they are closing permanently. And that’s just, that’s a massive loss for these communities.

Jeongwon Yoon’s in-laws do have insurance, but it’s not going to cover all the damage.

YOON: Their damage was already over like $500,000. But the insurance only covers like $100,000.

They’ll use that $100,000 dollars to buy things like display cases and a new cash register and shelving. But they still aren’t sure where they’ll get the money to restock all the products. It may be six months before they can reopen.

YOON: They cannot give up. That’s not an option. Yeah, they cannot give up the store. 

Other stores are able to reopen, but might not be willing. A Walmart on Chicago’s South Side got ransacked, and the company isn’t making any promises about reopening. Closures like that could hurt low-income neighborhoods.

Leslie Ballard is an OBGYN. She usually sends patients to the CVS four blocks from her house—the one that got ransacked.

LESLIE BALLARD: Walgreens, CVS, Targets, Walmart. So last week there was just patient after patient who because of looting and you know, vandalism in the area, they weren’t able to get things like insulin, other diabetic medications, high blood pressure medications.

Many people in the Near West Side don’t have cars. So if a store in their neighborhood closes permanently, that could have significant consequences.

Andre Ballard says this is a chance for the church to step up and help in a tangible way.

ANDRE BALLARD: We are grateful we have a church that has some financial resources and we’re able to pay some people’s rent and provide for some people to buy groceries, things of that nature.

Ballard wants to be a doer of the word, not just a hearer.

ANDRE BALLARD: We also do want to love on our police officers, men and women, we want to love on our neighbors, love on our members, Black and Brown, who are experiencing some of these difficult things and see how we might be able to live this life together in a way that would be beneficial for us all.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen in Chicago, Illinois.


(Patrick Smith/WBEZ) Michael Walker cleans up inside Mary’s Bar-B-Que on Chicago’s West Side, which was smashed up and set on fire overnight.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

Like this story?

To hear a lot more like it, subscribe to The World and Everything in It via iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, or Pocket Casts.

iTunes

Free

Overcast

Free

Stitcher

Free

Pocket Casts

(Requires a fee)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.