FERGUSON, Missouri (CNN) -

The August 9 police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, plunged the city into chaos.

Suddenly, the small suburb outside St. Louis was a flashpoint in the debate over race and the proper use of police force.

Protests -- some violent -- have broken out nightly, heightening tensions and making Ferguson a national headline.

But behind that story are thousands of smaller stories -- those of the people in Ferguson.

Here's what some of them are saying:

A father: Arvid Wilkerson

Arvid Wilkerson, 22, worries he made a mistake moving his family to Ferguson from Castle Point, Missouri.

"Two days later, that happened," he said, referring to the shooting of teenager Michael Brown.

Wilkerson says he used to get in trouble as a teen -- "doing stupid stuff" -- but now he keeps his distance. Though his actions then warranted police intervention, he still thinks many officers take advantage of their power.

"Police do what they want," he said. "They abuse that badge."

Wilkerson brought his 2-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son to Ferguson to "try to make it better for them. Castle Point was OK, but it was still bad." Ferguson was supposed to have more opportunities and less crime, he said.

Asked whether things could go back to normal and his reason for moving to Ferguson could still be realized, Wilkerson said: "It all depends on what they do to this officer," referring to the officer who shot Brown.

"If he don't get charged and justice is not served, it will get much worse," he said.

A nurse: Patricia Pendelton

Patricia Pendelton, a 41-year-old nurse, has lived in Ferguson almost five years. She was raised in the St. Louis area and has lived all over it.

She says she came to Ferguson because it's safe, has plenty of jobs -- though there could be more -- and has good schools for her three boys, who are now 17, 19 and 22.

"It was a nice community," she said, perhaps not realizing she used the past tense, though she notices her once-friendly neighborhood where people said hello to one another now carries an air of distrust. "Everything's so tense now. Everyone is just mean-mugging each other."

She's never had problems with the police in Ferguson. She chalks that up to her age. Like many Ferguson residents, she has heard that black youths and young black men have a different experience. Many say they were pulled over or stopped on the street for looking suspicious, which Pendelton thinks is a pretense for harassment.

There isn't much for young people to do, she said. The YMCA charges an entry fee and there aren't many recreational opportunities, so "they walk around, hang out, go to houses. ... That's not uncommon for them to be walking in the streets."

Now, she feels trapped at home, like she's living in a police state. Her neighborhood is blocked off in the afternoon. At night, when police try to combat the violent demonstrations with tear gas, the smoke wafts down to her neighborhood. Even with the doors and windows closed, it burns her eyes and nose.

Even worse, she's terribly worried any time one of her sons leaves the house now. She knows he's not coming back until after dark. What happens if he gets caught up in the mess just down the street?

A mother: Marquita Rogers

Marquita Rogers, 27, is annoyed that her kids, Markell, 9 and Lonzell, 7, weren't in school Tuesday. What annoys her more is that she got no notice before she walked them the three-fourths of a mile to Koch Elementary.

This lack of communication has been typical lately, as police routinely block off part of the thoroughfare that leads to her subdivision, which abuts the Ferguson area where Brown was shot. No one told her about that, either -- no fliers, no Facebook messages, no one on the news -- until she tried to leave and realized that because of the chaos, she was basically stuck by the blocked-off street.

"I support the movement when it's the right way. I got two sons it, could've been one of them," she said, "but when it starts to get dark, that's when it starts to get ratchet," using slang for ugly.