“When you’re at zero, anything can happen.”
— Detroit: A Play, by Lisa D’Amour,2011
DETROIT—As much as anyone, Luther Keith has had a close-up, lifelong look at his city’s rise, terrible fall and, as many Detroiters hope, ongoing reinvention.
Keith was 17 that summer Sunday in 1967. He’d gone to 8 a.m. mass at St. Agnes Catholic Church on 12th St. By the time he stepped back into the morning, Detroit was changing before his eyes.
Keith saw people breaking into stores. A shoe-store owner near his house would be beaten to death. At the time, he didn’t know what was going on or how bad it was.
“So that afternoon I played baseball. I’m playing the outfield and I’m looking up and I’m seeing black smoke coming up across the city.”