Baltimore was the center of the world last week.

When I first decided to move to Baltimore, I was less than thrilled to be honest. All I had heard about the city terrified me and I'm sad to say that I couldn't see past the stereotype. I couldn't tell if the nickname "Charm City" was supposed to ironic or not. I knew that Baltimore was where I was supposed to, but it didn't make the situation any easier.

The first few months in Baltimore were tough. I was on edge all the time, feeling like I was constantly on guard. Eventually I settled in a routine. I got to know my neighbors, my roommates were amazing,  and I found my little corners of the city that I loved. My initially icy relationship was beginning to thaw.

Cue last week.

I came home from class early as tension in the city increased. My roommates and I sat on our couch, glued to the news. As I was watching the news I kept thinking, "This isn't real. This can't be happening." The whole situation felt too surreal to comprehend. This only happens in other places, I kept thinking.

As the night progressed the situation spread to other parts of the city and eventually found its way to my little corner of Baltimore. Eventually, my roommates and I turned off the news and tried to sleep. I laid awake for what felt like hours listening to sirens blare and choppers pass.

After a fitful night, the sun finally came up and Baltimore surveyed the damage of the night before: 15 buildings burned down, 150 car fires, and countless lootings. But with the sun came something else: hundreds of citizens came out to rebuild the city. School children swept the streets alongside their parents, several groups organized bottled waters and lunches for police officers who had been out all night, and some citizens placed themselves between the protesters and the police.

While I watched the news on the next day, my entire perspective changed. I felt a sense of pride swell up inside me. This is our city. It belongs to us. I saw this community come together. Neighbors checked on each other and people helped clean up shops. It was an incredible sight to watch. And this was the real Baltimore.

My relationship with Baltimore changed last week. In the midst of so much chaos, this city showed me how much beauty and kindness exists in even the more dire of circumstances. I never want to relive this experience, but I am grateful for the lessons I learned. There is beauty wherever we look.

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