Listen to Grapple: Reflections from a steel town and what it takes to make a comeback

    On Grapple, we hear a lot of stories about the challenges people in distressed communities are facing, but we also want to hear stories about what communities are doing to comeback.

    Clairton, a small, hilly steel town on the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh, is known for football.

    “It’s like Friday Night Lights up here in Clairton. We’ve got a lot of championships,” said Ronald Berry, a former high school football star.

    Over the years, the Clairton Bears have dominated high school football in Pennsylvania. To the point where the team went undefeated for four years from 2009 to 2013 with 66 wins and 0 losses. It’s has been a bright spot for this city that’s been struggling.

    At its peak back in the 1950s, Clairton was a booming steel town with around 20,000 people. Today there are fewer than 7,000 people living in Clairton and Berry is among those who’ve left over the years.

    “I guess steel ain’t the thing no more,” said Berry. “I had to get out of here find me a better way to live.”

    But Berry loves his hometown and comes back frequently. The day we met him, he was back in town helping a cousin move into a new home. He said Clairton looks like a ghost town.

    “It’s just sad. They need to bring some money back into Clairton. Open things back up. Get this community thriving and striving again.”

    On episode 07 of Grapple, you’ll hear from Berry and from others who remember better times from this steel town in the Pittsburgh region.

    On episode 08, we discuss what some small American cities like Clairton are doing to make a comeback with longtime Atlantic magazine writers James and Deborah Fallows.

    The couple has been traveling around the Unites States for the last three years on a single-engine propeller plane to find out how American cities and towns have been putting themselves back together. Their project is called American Futures.

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