“The abrading of a city’s self-image is gradual. But once that dreary process begins, it gathers an energy of its own and becomes difficult to reverse. If a place is continually criticized—withered by condescension from without, and shame from within—a kind of civic inferiority inevitably results. A case in point: the grand old Mississippi River town of St. Louis, gateway to the West, a city so thoroughly beaten up that it seemed to have thrown up its hands in defeat years ago. Occasionally, however, something inexplicable comes along to alter the landscape, lowering the hands and providing the sense that positive change is possible.

An event of that magnitude took the region by surprise this summer…”

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