August 28, 2007

Personifying New Orleans

I have often personified New Orleans when speaking about her. She has been many people to me at different times, but mostly a family member whom I love and feel an intense duty to protect and fight for.

I have never thought of her as a murderer:
It has been almost eight months now since the early morning silence of the Marigny district was broken by the sound of gunfire from inside Helen Hill's tidy white house on North Rampart Street.

Eight long, frustrating months since the acclaimed Canadian filmmaker was killed by a bullet wound to the neck. No clues, no arrests and no closure for family members desperate for answers.

Still grieving, Hill's stepfather has come to his own painful conclusions.

"I felt right away that New Orleans killed Helen," says Kevin Lewis. "In my bad moods - my worst moods - I don't care if New Orleans gets flooded out again and is just plowed over." Lewis says he knows "in the long run" he can't hold the city itself culpable in the death of his daughter, but his assessment holds more than a kernel of truth.

Two years after Hurricane Katrina brought this historic city to its knees, murder is coming to define New Orleans's personality as much as jazz funerals, Mardi Gras parades and French Quarter debauchery.
The title of the article is “Did New Orleans kill Helen?”

At the risk of causing more hysteria over crime and therefore eclipsing the hysteria over more important issues, I just want to point out that there have been 25 murders in the last 25 days in the city of New Orleans, from August 4 to August 28. August has been the deadliest month in 2007 with its 25 murders, making 137 murders for the year.

Violent crime affects the recovery on a very personal level:
Dear New Orleans: I’m Leaving You

***

They don't understand that I'm in love. I talk to friends about New Orleans like a dysfunctional romance. I gush over it one day, then call up bawling and heartbroken the next. Why can't it change? Stop being self-destructive and violent? It has so much potential.

Recently, my blinders started to come off. It was building for awhile. My friend Helen Hill was murdered in her home;other friends have been mugged. We don't go out much any more...

But then there was this hot Friday night last month. I went on the perfect date with New Orleans . Saw live, local music, danced with friends on the stage, then headed home through my neighborhood of craftsman cottages and angel trumpet trees.

A block from my door, I was attacked from behind by a stranger. I escaped, with the help of my roommate. The case is moving forward, so I can't say much more than that.

Now I'm a jilted lover of the city. I'm angry and confused. Which is the real New Orleans? The one that's violent and desperate? Or the one that coos softly, and caresses me? The answer, of course, is both.

I just hauled my things out of New Orleans in a big truck. I am still in love with the city, but it's hard to trust it. Maybe we'll both heal, and the relationship will rekindle. I don't know what - or how long - that might take.
I wish that person would stay. I wish that her city loved her back. I wish that this were an isolated experience.

Once again, 25 murders in 25 days.

When do we march?

1 comment:

publiucious said...

Quoting a grieving father-in-law in this way, a statement that I would guess endorses the deaths of thousands and the destructions of the lives of thousands more just to avenge the death of his daughter-in-law falls under the categories of "sensationalistic" as well as "tacky" and "thoughtless." Do I avenge Earth for taking a close friend via cancer, or a rural southern area for the murder of a former co-worker's husband?

I'm not blaming the father-in-law, mind you. I'm blaming the asshole reporter for using the quote as grist for the mill, when it's obvious to the reporter where it's coming from.