Despite Everything, Detroit Still Has Fans

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A power outage is just the cherry on top of a year in Detroit that saw the auto industry running on fumes, a housing industry wracked by foreclosure and unemployment rates among the highest in the nation. So why is Detroit still so lovable?


Maybe the people of Detroit could use a little Santeria. It's day one of 2009 and already some problems. Tens of thousands of people in Michigan are still without power after winter weather knocked out electrical lines. Reporter Celeste Headlee is one of them.

CELESTE HEADLEE: For the fifth day in a row, I am without electricity, praying the pipes don't freeze. Power outages are kind of fun in the summer. You roam around the house with your flashlights and pretend you're camping. In the winter, no. No hot water, no hot food, and your breath shows when you exhale in the kitchen.

Detroiters really didn't need this. I mean, talk about kicking a city when it's down. The auto industry is in tatters. Unemployment is higher than it was in 1929. The Detroit Lions just became officially the worst team in NFL history, and now, our power company can't seem to get the heat back on. Imagine this, my 10-year-old son gets a Wii for Christmas that he can't use.

Unidentified Boy: Yeah, come on. My winter break is being wasted away.

HEADLEE: Thank God, my son is a Detroiter. He understands resilience.

Unidentified Boy: Oh, now, you just got me riled up.

HEADLEE: You can't live in or around the Motor City without learning how to snap back. In a few weeks, we'll be amused by it all - how we lit 30 candles to try and raise the temperature a few degrees, and how we didn't have to worry about the food in the fridge because it was warmer in there than it is in the living room. Celeste Headlee, NPR News, 21 degrees in Detroit.

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BRAND: Day to Day is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I am Madeleine Brand.

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