The young couple building a new home across the street from me was in the neighborhood the other day checking on the progress of the construction.
“Did you hear about the shooting?” the woman asked me.
For New Orleanians, crime is one of those things you talk about when you’re not talking about food, parades or the Saints.
On Friday night, two men were shot while sitting in a car on Charlotte Drive near Filmore Avenue, several blocks away from my house. One of the men, only 24, was killed.
I think it’s a natural human instinct when we’re confronted with bad news to try to look for a way to dampen its blow, like how we tell ourselves when a loved one dies after a long illness that they’re “not suffering anymore.”
First, I tried to determine which side of Filmore, a major four-lane street through that part of Gentilly, the shooting had occurred on — “our” side, or the other side. It turned out to have happened on our side. I don’t know what kind of solace I’d hoped to gain by having the killing take place on the other side of those four lanes, a border that’s more conceptual than real.
I also tried to comfort myself with the thought that there’s a big park between my side of the subdivision and the area where the shooting took place, and the park cuts off some of the streets, preventing easy movement from one end of the neighborhood to the other. More virtual borders, easily breached.
Sometimes we soothe ourselves with the news that a victim was intentionally targeted by his killer. In other words, we don’t have to worry about murderers wandering our neighborhood killing people at random. We can dismiss a crime with the knowledge that it had to do with bad blood between the shooter and the victim, a score being settled between just those two.
We grasp at whatever straws we can find.
The Charlotte Drive murder was just the start of a peak crime spurt. A New Orleans Police officer was injured in a shooting Sunday morning while working a paid detail at a restaurant on St. Claude. Monday evening, five men were shot in the 6700 block of Chef Menteur.
And on it goes. Yet, as if inured to the violence around us, our lives go on. We get our kids off to school, we go to work, shopping, doctor’s appointments.
Those of us who are old enough can remember the murder-a-day period of the 1980s and think that, in comparison, we’re living in better times. Or is that feeling just one more example of trying to lessen the impact of the bad news that’s around us?
I told the couple of some other crimes in our neighborhood in recent years. There was an incident when armed perpetrators came upon some people putting up Christmas lights outside their home and figured that would be a good time to catch them off guard. They took them inside and then went through the house.
That took place just a block or two on the other side of Filmore, so I managed to convince myself not to feel threatened by it then.
And there was the day when someone sprayed gunshots at the park that I mentioned earlier, the one that I thought put a buffer between me and Friday night’s shooters.
Resignedly, I told the couple, “The only consolation is that it’s much worse in other parts of the city.”
When we find straws to grasp, we cling to them as hard as we can.
Dennis Persica’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.