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 Frozen in indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant warehouse

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PostSubject: Frozen in indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant warehouse   Mon Feb 02, 2009 11:55 pm

Charlie LeDuff / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- This city has not always been a gentle place, but a series of events over the past few, frigid days causes one to wonder how cold the collective heart has grown.

It starts with a phone call made by a man who said his friend found a dead body in the elevator shaft of an abandoned building on the city's west side.

"He's encased in ice, except his legs, which are sticking out like Popsicle sticks," the caller phoned to tell this reporter.

"Why didn't your friend call the police?"

"He was trespassing and didn't want to get in trouble," the caller replied. As it happens, the caller's friend is an urban explorer who gets thrills rummaging through and photographing the ruins of Detroit. It turns out that this explorer last week was playing hockey with a group of other explorers on the frozen waters that had collected in the basement of the building. None of the men called the police, the explorer said. They, in fact, continued their hockey game.

Before calling the police, this reporter went to check on the tip, skeptical of a hoax. Sure enough, in the well of the cargo elevator, two feet jutted out above the ice. Closer inspection revealed that the rest of the body was encased in 2-3 feet of ice, the body prostrate, suspended into the ice like a porpoising walrus.

The hem of a beige jacket could be made out, as could the cuffs of blue jeans. The socks were relatively clean and white. The left shoe was worn at the heel but carried fresh laces. Adding to the macabre and incongruous scene was a pillow that gently propped up the left foot of the corpse. It looked almost peaceful.

What happened to this person, one wonders? Murder in Motown is a definite possibility. Perhaps it was death by alcoholic stupor. Perhaps the person was crawling around in the elevator shaft trying to retrieve some metal that he could sell at a scrap yard. In any event, there the person was. Stone-cold dead.

A symbol of decay
The building is known as the Roosevelt Warehouse, once belonging to the Detroit Public Schools as a book repository. Located near 14th Street and Michigan Avenue, the warehouse burned in 1987 and caused something of a scandal as thousands of books, scissors, footballs and crayons were left to rot while Detroit schoolchildren -- some of the poorest children in the country -- went without supplies.

The building was eventually sold to Matty Moroun, the trucking and real estate mogul who is worth billions of dollars and is the largest private property owner in the state of Michigan. Among other properties, Moroun owns the decrepit Michigan Central Rail Depot that squats directly next to the warehouse. The train station has become the symbol of Detroit's decay. Like much of his property in southwestern Detroit, Moroun's warehouse and the train station are gaping sores.

The warehouse is so easily accessible, a person in a wheelchair could get in with little effort. There are holes in the fence and in the side entrance. The elevator shaft is wide open. It appears no one has ever tried to close the bay doors.

A colony of homeless men live in the warehouse. Wednesday morning a few fires were burning inside oil drums. Scott Ruben, 38, huddled under filthy blankets not 20 paces from the elevator shaft.

"Yeah, I seen him," Ruben said. The snow outside howled. The heat from the can warped the landscape of rotting buildings and razor wire.

Did he know who the dead person was?

"I don't recognize him from his shoes."

Did he call the police?

"No, I figured someone else did," he said.

"There's lots of people coming through here with cameras and cell phones. I don't got no phone. I don't got no quarter. Things is tight around here."

His shack mate, Kenneth Williams, 47, returned at that point with an armload of wood.

"Yeah, he's been down there since last month at least."

He was asked if he called the police.

"No, I thought it was a dummy myself," he said unconvincingly. Besides, Williams said, there were more pressing issues like keeping warm and finding something to eat.

"You got a couple bucks?" he asked.

Waiting for a response
There are at least 19,000 homeless people in Detroit, by some estimates. Put another way, more than 1 in 50 people here are homeless.

The human problem is so bad, and the beds so few, that some shelters in the city provide only a chair. The chair is yours as long as you sit in it. Once you leave, the chair is reassigned.

Thousands of down-on-their-luck adults do nothing more with their day than clutch onto a chair. This passes for normal in some quarters of the city.

"I hate that musical chair game," Ruben said. He said he'd rather live next to a corpse.

Convinced that it was indeed a body, this reporter made a discreet call to a police officer.

"Aw, just give 911 a call," the cop said. "We'll be called eventually."

A call was placed to 911. A woman answered. She was told it was a reporter calling. The operator tried to follow, but seemed confused. "Where is this building?"

She promised to contact the appropriate authorities.

Twenty minutes or so went by when 911 called the newsroom. This time it was a man.

"Where's this building?"

It was explained to him, as was the elevator shaft and the tomb of ice.

"Bring a jack-hammer," this reporter suggested.

"That's what we do," he said.

Nearly 24 hours went by. The elevator shaft was still a gaping wound. There was no crime scene tape. The homeless continued to burn their fires. City schoolchildren still do not have the necessary books to learn. The train station continues to crumble. Too many homicides still go unsolved.

After another two calls to 911 on Wednesday afternoon (one of which was disconnected), the Detroit Fire Department called and agreed to meet nearby.

Capt. Emma McDonald was on the scene.

"Every time I think I've seen it all, I see this," she said.

And with that they went about the work of recovering a person who might otherwise be waiting for the warm winds of spring.

Frozen in indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant warehouse

Some stories I read make me wonder just how cold we as a society have grown.
I feel awful that no one cared if this man was found or not.Everyone just ignored him.

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PostSubject: Re: Frozen in indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant warehouse   Tue Feb 03, 2009 12:09 pm

It's horrible isn't it. They probably figured he was dead and so not in need of anything any longer. Hopefully he wasn't murdered or fell and was left to die alone injuried. Stuff like this hurts. And then I think of all the terrible horrific things that people do to others and little kids.
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PostSubject: Re: Frozen in indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant warehouse   Tue Feb 03, 2009 12:36 pm

That is just horrible! Even if he was dead and not murdered or anything, they should at least get his body out and give it a proper funeral instead of just leaving it there. Human society seems to have just grown so cold and heartless at times!!
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PostSubject: Re: Frozen in indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant warehouse   Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:52 pm

The World has gone mad and compassion has been, for the most part, put on the back burner

I just hope that the poor guy WAS dead when they found him and was beyond medical help

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PostSubject: Re: Frozen in indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant warehouse   Tue Feb 03, 2009 7:48 pm

It's interesting how societies vary from place to place in varying degrees.
One could go from a small town of <9000 (Perry) to a city of 1,200,000 (Oklahoma City) to an even larger city of like 6,900,000+ (Detroit) and the way of life will be drastically different, way of thinking/perceiving/acting & reacting... all just based on how we were raised and where we grew up... a trend that continues to grow with us with each move, each new experience, and each breath of each new day.

It's not surprising to me that a place like Detroit has so many "uncaring" people. Considering how bad the situation is in various parts... how thoughts, feelings, etc. are shared & experienced like a plague spreading from one person to the next.
I'm certain if something like this was discovered in Oklahoma City or my old home town of Perry... something would have been done. Depending on the night it may take a second phone call or hour(s) to go by... but nothing as horrible as the reaction in Detroit (more than likely; perhaps would just depend what part of Oklahoma City it was discovered.)

But beyond all that...
We're conditioned to be a product of the societies we live in wherever we are.
Of course a poor person living on the street isn't going to give a second thought about someone else dead or alive (though I'd hope someone alive and dying would have at least SOME difference by the majority) - their biggest concern is staying warm and having just enough food/water to stay alive.
Then there's the rich businessmen type... so lost and wrapped up in their world to truly see/think about what else is going on outside their bubble - always a slave to the clock... go go go, rest, go go go.

The concept of time doesn't help... the majority of us are slaves to the clock and money - there's no time to think about others beyond those who are familiar to us.

It's sad we've become like this...
I'm just thankful for what few who refuse to go with the flock do exist...
The people who would have called immediately even if they had to beg to use a store's phone or ask a complete stranger to use their cell/home phone.
The people who volunteer.
The people on "the force" (police, medical, firefighters, etc.) who do everything they can to make a difference (even if it's something simple as getting a young child's cat out of a tree or big, like this, in taking care of the body and ensuring the area is secured so it doesn't hurt others.)
The people who realize just how bad our societies have become and choose to not (always) be a part of the problem in some way, shape, or form big or small.
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PostSubject: Re: Frozen in indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant warehouse   Wed Feb 04, 2009 6:55 pm

I really can understand that "big place, little place" idea. I know that where I live I cant walk down the street without saying hello to or hugging at least a dozen people, young and old. I know that if I was ever alone and got into trouble that I would have several "big brothers" looking out for me

I cant imagine anybody being left to die like that around these parts, thank Goddess

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PostSubject: Re: Frozen in indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant warehouse   Wed Feb 04, 2009 10:28 pm

I saw the picture from this a few days ago. It's just so sad. There's no reason why the homeless should be outside in weather like this. You'd think people would at least be considerate and point them to a shelter. It's just so awful.
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