By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Aug 18, 2016 at 3:03 PM

My sister, who lives in Atlanta and saw coverage of the Milwaukee riots on CNN, contacted me on Sunday to make sure I was OK. "It looks like the entire city is on fire," she said.

It has been many years since she lived in Milwaukee, but I reminded her that even though the Sherman Park neighborhood is only a few minutes' drive from my house in Walker’s Point, it was a world away. I assured her I was not in any harm, which was reassuring to her as well as to me, but I also found it depressing. 

I was "safe" because of segregation.

Annette French, who lives near Brady Street, heard from a number of her out-of-state Facebook friends who were concerned about the chaos in the city. She told them that the same thing I told my sister: Even though she was only a mile or two away, she was not in danger.

"It's been stated in the press that Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in the U.S., and I guess that's the unfortunate reason that I can be relatively close but still basically unaffected by the turmoil," says French. "It is an incredibly complex issue that I'm just glad people are talking about. It's the only way to move forward, and I hope that is the direction this goes."

French did, however, smell the fire from burning buildings on Saturday night.

"After a family reunion, several of us decided to sleep out in my backyard, hoping to catch a meteor or two," says French. "The air was filled with the distant smell of burning tires and fuel. We didn't know what it was from until the next morning, but we knew it was something major."

French was "safe" because of segregation.

Anyone who lives in Milwaukee should know that segregation has been a problem here for generations. Numerous books, studies and articles, like "Why is Milwaukee so bad for black people?" by Kenya Downs, really break down Milwaukee's de facto segregation.

This blog simply reflects the irony of people living minutes from a neighborhood in strife and yet experience it like the rest of the country: through social media and television. Just blocks away, people were pained, injured and even dying, but many of us were virtually at no risk. 

Amanda Rose was in Riverwest, and she could smell the fire too, but couldn't see or feel any other signs of disturbance.

"The smell of smoke filtered into my daughter's bedroom. It was a hot night, and I found myself closing the windows to shut out the smell. That was a powerful moment, actually. The realization I could easily and swiftly shut out the violence saddened me as I considered how close in proximity yet how far removed experientially I really was from all of it," says Rose.

"I live side by side with people of color and never feel anything close to the pain and fear they experience. If the violence or the rioting becomes too overwhelming, I can close my windows and walk away. It doesn't have to touch me if I don't want to let it in."

Rose was "safe" because of segregation.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.