Tuesday morning I awoke abruptly just before 4 a.m. from a dream. Convinced I was awake for the day, I decided to send a few emails. While clacking out my correspondence in the dead silence of pre-dawn I heard in the not-too-far distance successive gunshots. I thought it was about eight rounds. Maybe it was seven. But does it even matter how many there were? I called 911. They took my location, name, etc. Then I went for a run. And this is normal in New Orleans. At least for now.
The Big Easy life choices run the gamut. Choosing to live here means keeping your wits about you and trying to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Often it seems incidents like these shake out with a certain specificity, actions taking place between known parties. But then there are numerous other examples of random. So what do you do? Live in fear? Move away? Stay? Kvetch in your weekly online rant? I’m not going to not live here, but I’m also not going to ignore our problems either.
New Orleans exhibits a host of ailments. Sometimes too daunting to even consider where to start. Education is fine place for a foundation. The woes of Katrina’s ravages did reboot the city’s school offerings at large. And that’s huge. We are a short 11 years after, and educationally we are light years ahead of where we likely would have been had 8/29 never happened. New Orleans’ school systems were arguably beyond broken then, but the opportunities that have arisen since? Those have yet to be measured.
My point is we might expect to see the fruits of the efforts from this decade’s plus influx of educators in another 11 years; we have to. I don’t think the party, though likely parties, responsible for the early morning gunfire I audibly witnessed had access to the same educational benefits young New Orleanians now have access to. And that’s a weighty perspective. Irksome only scratches the surface to the awful redefining of normalcy in the Crescent City. But you can’t give up. You just can’t.
EPILOGUE: Last week while further clearing a blighted lot in my neighborhood, I happened upon a stoop perched man, crouched over, back turned just so, presumably trying to shoot heroin. Fact: I clear needles from this lot all the time. Shortly thereafter two young men stand watch over that nearest corner where they stay I guess, surveying the activity of the surrounding blocks. Once they retire inside, moments later three little boys, likely no more than six years-old and dressed in matching school uniforms and backpacks, exit in queue and dutifully make their way toward the neighborhood’s school.
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.