Nightly News | August 14, 2011
LESTER HOLT, anchor: While the wild stock market gyrations of the last few weeks have many asking whether there might be a double-dip recession, others in places, like Millen , Georgia , are in many ways still living through the first one. When the town's factories, one by one, started closing down, it created a ripple effect of lost jobs and shattered dreams. But as we'll show you later tonight in a special "Dateline" hour, it also tested Millen 's resolve to fight back.
Ms. KRYSTAL CHANCE: We've worked hard. I kind of felt like we deserved everything that we had.
HOLT: Before the economic crisis, Krystal Chance 's life had everything: a great family, a popular restaurant, and a beautiful home.
Ms. CHANCE: You build your dream home, that's part of the American dream . You know, you work hard, you do right, you save your money, you have good credit, you build your house. That's what you're supposed to do.
HOLT: But then the great recession hit her hometown of Millen , Georgia , like a ferocious southern tornado. In the span of two years, all the factories that had kept Millen running closed shop or moved overseas. Thirteen-hundred people lost their jobs, including Krystal 's husband. With no money to spend, Krystal 's loyal customers stopped coming to eat and she had to close her restaurant.
Ms. CHANCE: That was probably one of the worst times in my life. I would come out to the back steps and just sit and think, 'What is the next thing that we need to do?' And we really didn't know.
HOLT: Like so many others, Krystal and her husband found themselves stuck with a house they couldn't sell and a mortgage they couldn't afford. Suddenly there was no money left for basic essentials like health insurance . When both of Krystal 's daughters had medical emergencies, she had no choice but to apply for Medicaid .
Ms. CHANCE: We've never had to ask for help. We've never had to ask for help, and we had to ask for help. And that was hard.
HOLT: When Krystal tells me her story, I almost get this sense of shame and a sense of, 'It only happened to me.'
Mr. JACOB HACKER (Yale University): It's happening to families like Krystal 's all across America . And this job crisis has become a health care crisis, because as people lose their jobs, they're also losing their health insurance . Seventeen million middle-class families are on Medicaid .
HOLT: TO make ends meet, Krystal started a T-shirt business. Things started to look up when her husband found another job. And when a corrections company started to build a prison in town and promised hundreds of new jobs to Millen , Krystal thought there may be hope ahead for her town and for her restaurant.
Ms. CHANCE: I just wanted everything to be like it was. I wanted to come back to the restaurant and have life.
HOLT: When you opened this door again, was there a sense of failure is not an option ?
Ms. CHANCE: Oh, it's not. I realize that this is -- this is it. This is my last chance right here.
HOLT: More on what happened for Krystal and other families in Millen ,
Georgia, in our "Dateline" special "America Now: The Town that Jobs Forgot ."