Chris, this was an excellent read. I am 42 years old and grew up in Cape Girardeau, not far from Cairo. I have relatives who live in Western Kentucky, so I have driven through Cairo several times over the last 40 years.
Your pictures, while amazing, still don’t do the town justice. Having seen the decline over the last 4 decades, I feel a little piece of me die away while driving through the town, wondering how the residents live in such a depressing location. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, it still wasn’t much to look at, but it was far better than it is today. There were actual businesses like hardware stores, grocery stores, basically what you would see in small town America. Of course, the run down buildings that are so prevalent today were still plentiful, but you didn’t feel like the town had just been hit by a nuclear bomb.
As I am writing this I wonder if I make it another 40 years what Cairo will look like then. You want to believe it can’t get any worse, but as someone who as seen it decline slowly over the last 40 years, you know that it can.