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Dear Chicago, we love you despite it all

By Christina Zdanowicz, CNN
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Photographer Alina Tsvor took this <a href='http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1120451'>aerial photograph</a> of Chicago during a helicopter tour to try to capture the city in a new way. Click through to see other images of Chicago in all its glory. Photographer Alina Tsvor took this aerial photograph of Chicago during a helicopter tour to try to capture the city in a new way. Click through to see other images of Chicago in all its glory.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN asks readers to share what they love about Chicago
  • "Chicago is the world in one place," says Reynaldo Leal.
  • "Chicago doesn't just reside in our heart -- it is our heart," says Farhaj Hassan
  • "Chicagoland" airs Thursday nights at 10 p.m. ET on CNN

Editor's note: CNN asked you to tell us what you love about Chicago, and some of your enthusiastic responses are included in this article.

(CNN) -- Dear Chicago,

You sure aren't perfect.

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Numerous city aldermen and officials have been brought down by corruption charges. Your schools are failing. You have a high rate of gun violence, which has cast shadows upon your reputation.

Despite the long list of wrongs, there are a lot of things you do right.

Lifelong Chicagoans and loving visitors are consistently complimentary of you. We say this without shame: Chicago, we love you, imperfections and all.

You are 77 official neighborhoods, according to the mayor's office. But more than 200 "pocket" neighborhoods make up your anatomy.

WBEZ: Who creates Chicago's neighborhoods?

Your people ride through your bloodstream on the L, where we can see your distinct personalities in each lively neighborhood. Concert venues and Al Capone's favorite hangout, the Green Mill, beam as we zoom through Uptown. The Garfield Park Conservatory emanates natural beauty on the West Side. And lessons from the past fill our minds as we near the DuSable Museum of African American History in Washington Park.

"Chicago is the world in one place. It's being able to get tacos in Little Village one day for lunch and tzatziki in Greek Town the next," says 21-year-old student Reynaldo Leal. Persian, Polish or Puerto Rican, you've got the world covered.

Your citizens make you who you are, with people from across the globe calling you home. Some stay put in their ethnic enclaves, speaking their native tongues, while others are curious neighborhood hoppers who seek authentic food and culture.

Chicago. Just saying your name is enough to conjure fond memories for Amanda Fallico. She can imagine riding down Lake Shore Drive on a warm summer evening.

Summer is when our love for you crescendos. You are at your peak of liveliness.

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Tight-knit families watching movies in the park, children playing games at North Avenue Beach and couples strolling along the magnificent lakefront are some of the things that bring you to life come summer.

"Chicago's parks are the settings for (a) world-class collection of sculptures, and the people of Chicago are lucky enough to have them in their backyard," says Matt Kochar.

But even in the winter, for any of us who brave the never-ending snowfall and brutal, subzero wind chills, you are truly a beauty.

When the tourists are too scared to come outside, it's us locals who get the rare treat of staring into Cloud Gate (affectionately known as "the Bean") all alone. Zahava Hanuka witnessed your quiet side during a moment just like this.

While the Bean, Chicago Picasso and Alexander Calder's Flamingo are all figures of beauty, your buildings and stunning skyscrapers are architectural marvels in themselves. Whether we're lost in the past of the historic Rookery building or meandering through the urban canyons beneath the futuresque Trump Tower, your architecture tells us the story of your life.

Sometimes, you talk to us through your buildings. When the Blackhawks made the playoffs last year, skyscrapers lit up with words of encouragement. The same treatment goes for the Bears, Bulls, Sox and well, someday the Cubs. (Here's to hoping someone breaks the Curse of the Billy Goat soon!)

Share your Wrigley Field photos

Your cheering buildings prove you're a big city that doesn't take yourself too seriously. As Swathi Sridhara puts it, "Chicagoans have a unique blend of small-town Midwest charm and a gritty city work ethic."

And if your gleaming towers and your potholed streets are your skeleton, then your heart lies in your people.

Farhaj Hassan, who moved away as a child, said it well: "Chicago doesn't just reside in our heart -- it is our heart. Chicago is us, we of Chicago are Chicago."

Chicago, no matter what anyone says, we will always be proud to call you home.

Love,

Chicagoans everywhere

Author Christina Zdanowicz is a proud native of Chicagoland who refuses to call the Sears Tower by its new name and unabashedly cheers for the Cubs.

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