As Sierra Smith headed home in Ferguson on Monday night, she saw crowds of residents and protesters starting to fill West Florissant Avenue, the scene of last summer's protests over the shooting of Michael Brown.
"It's starting to get pretty thick out there," said Smith, 27. "People are just scattered out in different areas. It's tense, it's emotional — to see our city preparing for the worst."
Arriving home, she had to soothe her 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter who grew increasingly agitated, complaining, "Mommy, the helicopters are flying again!"
They saw what happened when police clashed with protesters last summer: the tear gas, the smoke, the curfews and commands shouted over bullhorns.
"They're just a little upset and emotional all over again," Smith said.
Smith lives in the Canfield Green apartment complex where Michael Brown was shot. She knew Brown, who used to hang out with her 19-year-old brother. She said one of her relatives was shot and killed by police years ago.
Smith has been attending community meetings and working with protesters, whom she communicated with Monday via email and text messages. "The ones that I know are peaceful protesters — they're looking to utilize their 1st Amendment rights. They're fighting for freedom, keeping their voice going for people who can't get out there," she said of the group, who carried backpacks of emergency supplies.
After darkness fell Monday, she grew concerned for their safety.
"I am worried that although they are peaceful, there are some out there without those same intentions. And those are two different groups. I don't want that to be misconstrued," she said.
She even worried about losing gas, water and power. She charged up her laptop and other devices in advance, and stocked up on staples Sunday.
Businesses closed early, her children's school was canceled Tuesday and it felt like the whole neighborhood was holding its breath.
Her hope: "That the family can move on and the community can move on to building a better St. Louis."