The Mother's Day shooting on Frenchmen Street and its aftermath last week had an eerie familiarity to it. I didn't recognize it at first, but by week's end it occurred to me that the collective trauma felt across the city — and the passion that moved so many to respond to the tragedy with such generosity — was a bit like Hurricane Katrina.
At first, all we felt was the trauma. Words fail to describe the shock, the numbness that follows news of young men spraying a crowd of several hundred people attending a peaceful, joyful second line with seemingly random gunfire, hitting at least 19 and causing at least one more to suffer injuries in the ensuing panic.
Not again. Not this many.
Then came the predictable assessment of responsibility — the blame game. After Katrina it was easy: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed and built defective levees and floodwalls, though it took months for the Corps to admit its failure.
In the case of the May 12 shootings, I say "predictable" because the culprits are all the usual suspects: the public school system (which actually has improved significantly since Katrina, but apparently not in time to change the lives of the 19- and 24-year-old suspects); the welfare state; lenient judges who somehow should have foreseen that Akein Scott and his brother Shawn would someday (allegedly) commit this horrific act; the city's "culture of violence"; illegal drugs and turf wars; a general lack of individual responsibility; guns (either too many or not enough) ... yadda, yadda, yadda.
Let's be clear: Responsibility rests squarely with the shooters. They made a decision to do what they did, and they must suffer the consequences of that decision.
The much tougher question is
how can we prevent this from happening again?
In the short run, the sad answer is we can't. The collective failures mentioned above are very real, in varying degrees. The best we can do right now is give our police and prosecutors the resources they need to arrest the guilty parties and lock them up. In the long run, we must address our collective failures with sound policies, prudent allocation of scarce resources and patience.
That's a tall order.
We also have to resolve not to give up hope. That, too, evokes Katrina. Our collective resolve is being tested once again. We must respond with faith, hope, love — and resilience.
Many already are doing that by coming together to help the shooting victims. If we cannot prevent the violence, at least in the short run, we can at least offer hope and help to its victims. In some cases, friends of individuals shot on May 12 are raising money to help their loved ones recover. On a larger scale, the United Way and Silence Is Violence have created The 19 Fund to help all victims of the May 12 shooting — and all future victims of violence in metro New Orleans.
"The 19 victims from the May 12 shooting, and the two other New Orleanians shot elsewhere in the city that same day, need our support," reads a statement from Silence Is Violence. "However they came to that tragic moment, supporting those victims is the compassionate thing to do. Supporting victims, not ignoring them, also ensures that they will come away from their tragedies more likely to become part of a solution, less likely to despair, disengage and thereby fuel the cycle. Each time a New Orleanian becomes a victim of violence, let us make this same decision: to support them and summon them to the cause of peace."
This is how we deal with tragedy: We reach out to one another to help. It's how we heal.