Editor’s Note: Love: NOLA usually runs on Thursday. But it appears here today because columnist Brett Will Taylor had something important and heartfelt to say. Please take a moment to read it, and then add your prayers to his.
Where I sit this morning, not even 24 hours after 19 fellow New Orleanians were shot, there are no answers. Hell, where I sit this morning, I don’t even think there are questions.
What there are, where I sit this morning, are prayers. Lots of prayers.
Yes, prayers. Where I sit.
There are prayers for my neighbor, Deborah Cotton, one of yesterday’s victims. When I first heard of the shootings that occurred during the Original Big Seven Second Line, my first thought was of Deb. I knew Deborah would be there. Deb is THE voice of the New Orleans cultural community. She’s at all the second lines.
I also knew she’d be ok. After all, she’s not just Deborah Cotton. She’s Big Red Cotton. Brassy, funny, passionate, fierce, smart, dedicated, Big Red, Deborah Cotton. A force of nature, a spirit to behold. I know her. I have taken care of her precious cat, Bubala, when she’s been away. Surely, she’d be ok.
That was what I told myself. At 3 p.m.
Four hours later, I was standing in ICU. At University Hospital. Saying a prayer. For Deb. And the 18 other victims.
There are prayers for the women I spoke to yesterday who are like sisters to Deb. Fellow road warriors who, each and every damned day, stand up and speak up and keep up the fight to make this city what she ought to be. They let the boys have their press releases and splashy events and, lord help us, Spike Lee-endorsed cute-sounding “campaigns” and, instead, actually get in the trenches and get things done.
I pray for my friend who called me yesterday on her way to be interviewed for Channel 4. “They are going to ask me what to say,” she told me. “I don’t know what to say anymore.”
I pray for my neighbor who, last night, just kept staring at Deb’s picture as it flashed on Channel 8 with the banner “Shooting victim” underneath it. “That’s my friend,” she kept saying over and over. “That’s Deb’s picture. On TV.”
I pray that their wounds heal as they come to terms with the fact that one of their own has been hit. And I pray that, as those wounds heal, they continue to show us the way.
There are prayers for the neighborhood in which this shooting happened. A friend of mine told me yesterday that, when she was in the market to buy a new home, her agent told her there was a house that was on the market, but no agent would list it because it wasn’t safe. That was one year before Katrina. Yesterday, my friend realized that house was less than a block from the shooting. Same neighborhood. Nine years later. Still unsafe.
Prayers. For those who do live there. And open their front doors not to a neighborhood but a war zone. Still.
There are prayers for the young men who shot the guns. Prayers for any young man — or young woman — who thinks nothing of walking into a crowd of people and firing a gun.
Prayers that they will see the value of our lives. And, prayers that we will see the value of theirs. Prayers that these young people can come to believe that they have a chance, an opportunity.That they have hope.
And prayers that we, as a society, will stop telling ourselves that change, that opportunity, that hope comes in the form of someone who makes hundreds of thousands, even millions, per year offering these kids a job that pays $8 per hour.
There are prayers for this city I love so much. New Orleans is a good city. She is a strong city. She is a loving city. She does not deserve to be covered in the blood of 19 of her children. Not on Mother’s Day. Not on any day.
Lastly, there are prayers for all of us.
“This is unreal,” I heard more than once yesterday. “Obviously, this is an unusual circumstance,” NOPD Chief Serpas said. I pray that, today, as we look out on a day that is as bright and beautiful as yesterday, we realize the error in our words. I pray that we realize that what is happening here is real. It is usual. That what happened in Boston is real. Same disregard for life. Same scene. Just different weapons.
I pray that, in the days to come, we come to find the answers. I pray that, tomorrow, we come to understand the truth in the questions we are asking.
But, today, I pray.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Follow him on Twitter @bwtshaman, email him at email@example.com or visit his site at ashamansjourney.net.