In the space of one week; a joyful reunion of old friends and then a few days later, gunshots shatter our joy and fill us with sorrow.
Joy and Sorrow. Communities coming together to laugh and dance, and to weep and grieve.
High school reunions are like nothing else. It brings back with a rush the laughter, awkwardness, insecurities and innocence of our younger selves. With drinks in hand, we remind each other of long forgotten memories. We renew friendships that have slipped away and we feel the affection with long, deep hugs.
The storytelling and laughter rise above the band playing our favorite 70’s songs. By the end of the night, everyone is on the dance floor moving like we did at our Senior Prom. Many of us have maintained a handful of precious friendships over the decades, but many of us had not seen each other in 40 years. Yet we still remain a community. We can see our youth again, past the extra pounds, and greying and thinning hair. And we are all grateful for our name tags that have our high school photos on them.
A few days later, while basking in the glow of reconnected classmates; a shooting happens. The movie theater where lives are forever shattered is less than an hour from where we danced the night away. Lafayette is now home to some from that Class of 1975. All of us have spent time in this south Louisiana town that was voted the happiest place in the country. There’s a quintessential Louisiana phrase, “laissez le bon temps rouler.” It means “let the good times roll” and no where does the phrase come to life more than Lafayette.
We are all interconnected in south Louisiana. My work intern rushed to console friends who were sitting on the same theater isle as the shooter. I had a long conversation with another friend who was broken-hearted over the death of artist and musician, Jillian Johnson. Jillian’s band, the Figs were scheduled to play at a Fall party at my friend’s camp a few miles from Lafayette on the mighty Atchafalaya River. My sweetie’s adult children grew up in Franklin, the same small town where the beautiful, 21-year old college student, Mayci Breaux grew up. We have another phrase down here, “Who’s your momma and dem”. It’s how we connect because we know there’s just one degree of separation between us.
The murderer was not from our community—but just like the shooter in Charleston—he would have been welcomed. We love to share our culture down here with our great food, ice-cold drinks, music and dancing.
The hate group Westboro (I won’t call them a church) has threatened to disrupt the funerals with its evil since the shooter was a supporter of their particular brand of hate. Fifteen thousand have pledged to shield the families from another horror. There’s a call to show the world the beautiful gumbo pot of South Louisiana. Black and white and Indian and Cajun and Creole and young and old and conservative and liberal will hold hands to shield our community from hate.
I’m admittedly often frustrated by many things in my beloved deep South. But we have something here that is special…deep community. Maybe because we know we’re just one hurricane away from tragedy that we live our life with extra zest.
Together we attend our graduations and reunions, weddings and funerals, births and deaths, together. We are all interconnected in this web of life. We are one community.
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