April 18th is approaching and for me this date carries the memory of a friend. Two years ago on April 18th my friend and housemate was fatally shot in a mugging outside of our New Orleans home. Around this time every year I get anxious and thoughtful all at once. I think about how different things would have been if she wasn’t the victim of this crime. What would she have been doing with her 22 year old self? I will never know. She had hopes and goals like the rest of us but hers were cut short.
Since then I have seen many more tragedies as a college student in New Orleans. The most notable, of course, is that infamous one named Katrina.
In my senior year at Loyola University I am finally capable of wrapping my brain around the turbulent social and economic crisis of this city. All the social injustices I am learning about are horrifying. Even to a girl who has seen her fair share of horror.
The problems are endless and I struggle in knowing which ones to stress.
I will start with what I learned in my sociology class today, for example.
The largest oil spill to EVER take place in a residential area (1 million gallons) occurred just 15 miles from my school as a result of Katrina. The fact that I could live so close to such a contaminated area and not even know it is shocking. It made me think about what else I don’t know but probably should.
There is a saying that I’ve used frequently in my adolesence and now in my early 20’s. “What you don’t know won’t kill you.” But in some cases I guess it is the exact opposite.
There are many other issues going on in New Orleans that I think people should be aware of. The lack of ANY psych beds in New Orleans, the fact that Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the world, the institutional racism that has always existed in this city, the influx of Latino day laborers since Katrina and the mistreatment they face on so many levels, and so much more.
This April 18th I will be thinking about my friend, Alyssa, and her family. Thinking about what she would think of New Orleans today. We had the chance to rebuild this city the right way but something went wrong, terribly wrong. I saw a commercial about a month ago that gave the number of murders in New Orleans for the first week in 2007. It was higher than the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq. There needn’t be much more evidence than that. This is war.
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