At the very southern end of the state of Illinois, lies the remnant of a once thriving city called Cairo. Heading south on US Highway 51, you approach a high, steep-sloped levee with railroad tracks on its crest that lies 25 feet above the roadway. The concrete archway forming the northern entry point to this former jewel at the junction of two major US rivers has a giant floodgate hanging over the road. Measuring 60 feet long, 20 feet high and 5 feet thick, this monster seals off the city from rising floods like a castle gate. On the west and south side of town lie massive levees that hold back the Mississippi River, and on the east side, the Army Corp of Engineers built a flood wall on top of another to hold back the Ohio. From the air, Cairo looks like a giant female reproductive organ. The road coming in from the north forms the vagina as it penetrates the levee. The flood gate resembles a large feminine napkin ready to close off the opening. At the end of the tunnel is the cervix that opens into a large uterus that holds the city. The rivers on both sides form unconnected (as of now) fallopian tubes. At the core of the “doomed womb” lies the wreckage of a once thriving city of 15,000 that now holds 2350. Half the structures are gone and another 1/8th are either burned out, strewn into the streets, or are completely abandoned. At 2 o’clock, in the town, is an operational chemical plant spewing a noxious odor into the air. With a disastrous history of war camps, murders, lynchings, and racial unrest, this town was intentionally bypassed by a freeway, Amtrak, chain hotels, and a failed ferry. With a tumultuous 1960’s and 70’s filled with riots, shootings, and bringing in the National Guard on multiple occasions, this active little abortion needs a road trip to fully appreciate its unique American decline. Before its ultimate demise in the very near future, appreciate this orphan of oppression before it is coat hangered into oblivion

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