A SIMPLE TWIST OF FATE
. . . Life and Death in the City
Joan Baez once sang, in a song
entitled "Simple Twist of Fate,"
the following lines: "People tell me it's a crime, to feel too much at any one time." If this be so, then we are all disobeying the law, especially since last Sunday's violent and senseless massacre at the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen.
The French Quarter Community, the gay community, the hospitality industry are all feeling a great deal because of the loss we have suffered. It is sad; it is one of life's cruel twists; it mustn't happen again. But it will.
That's the tragedy. We all KNOW that it will happen again and we are railing against the injustice of it, as well as reeling from the pain of unexpected violence. But what of those whose lives were lost . . . what have they already come to stand for in this mean city of crime and inhumanity?
I suggest that we each dedicate our lives as a memorial to these lost comrades who each day went about their daily activities in the same manner that each of us do. We grumble about the weather; we worry about the bills, we find joy with our loved ones; we give our energy to friends and strangers alike.
We must not let these deaths fall quietly from page one of the newspaper to become just more statistics. In fact, there is an important lesson to be learned that I am sure each of the victims of this violence would want us to remember: Live life to its fullest.
Yes, live life to its fullest . . . as ourselves, no matter who that might be.. . ever striving to reach our goals, never waiting until tomorrow to start living. How many of us really make an effort to live each day as if it were our last.
Oh, there is always tomorrow to see that friend, always next year to start that project. But what if you knew you had only 12 minutes to live and
at the end of that time your life was going to be taken from you for no reason... just because of a simple twist of fate. How would you live then?
What messages would you leave? Who would you have touched that morning? Would you have noticed the sunrise? Or the single bloom on the azalea bush on the balcony next door? It is so hard for us to remember our mortality. . . the fragility of life . . . the thin layers of skin, muscle and bone that protect our vital organs from destruction in a world of speeding cars, stray bullets, and sudden catastrophes awaiting us.
I imagine the Pizza Kitchen workers arriving for their shifts on that Sunday morning. All freshly showered and dressed for the day. There were vegetables to be cut, tea to be made, ovens to be fired. Tables needed to be set-up, umbrellas carried outside. The safe needed to be opened and the cash registers needed to be filled with money for business. Ice machines needed to be checked, air-conditioner temperatures needed adjustment . . . things that had been done so many times before . . . things of little significance. .. except that these chores would never again be done by these particular hands.
And it is at this point that I force my imagination to stop. I cannot bear tothink of the moments that followed. The terror, the sadness, the suffering, the turmoil, the sounds of gunfire, their last thoughts of families, friends, significant others, children, maybe even unfinished business or unpaid bills. Life can be so ordinary, except under extraordinary circumstances.
So it is that we have all come to this place in time to think about the extraordinary aspects of life and living...the joy of it all, the sorrow we would push away... the pain of loss...the anger of senseless killing.
What could those innocent people have possibly meant to these abhorrent murderers who in some instant decided that money was not enough in this robbery... lives must also be stolen... taken from those to whom they belonged.
Now it is not my intention here to cause any further pain to any of us, but to make the Pizza Kitchen killings a major wake-up call. Not only must we take steps as a society to stop the violence; we must also promise ourselves to make each and every minute of our lives count. Who would have dreamed that these people would not be coming home at the end of the day. Could they themselves possibly have known that their last twelve minutes would be spent together on the floor of a food freezer? What did they do that morning as they walked out of their safe homes and into the violent streets of New Orleans?
This has been a particularly bloody week in our city. Many of us have lost friends and loved ones to violence that is unfathomable. And none of us expect to never return home again when we leave each day for school or work.
But it happens..... and not just to some faceless "them" we read about in the newspaper..... but to our own, and even to ourselves.
Do any of us expect to hit a concrete retaining wall at 50 miles an hour because a careless driver pulls over into our lane? Do any of us expect to lose our lives on the way from the office to the parking lot where the man who parks your car will take more than your keys? Do any of us expect armed gunman to burst into our workplaces while we are absentmindedly filling containers with sugar and Sweet & Low? Do any of us expect to be killed for the money in our pockets by a desperate passersby to whom we would gladly give our wallets and loose change in exchange for another year of life? Do any of us expect to be shot down on the sidewalk after leaving Port of Call, the taste of hamburger and baked potato still in our mouths?
So what do we do now? What can be done to stop the violence? How can we insure our lives, our happiness? Well, the truth of the matter is that thereis no insurance . . . even life insurance is a misnomer because you can't collect on it until you are dead. . . actually YOU never will collect on it at all. Will we all carry guns for protection? Will we be afraid to go to work and turn our backs to the door to start the coffee brewing?
Today, with the memory of the Pizza Kitchen murders so fresh in our minds, weare probably making all sorts of plans to insure our safety. But what about next week, or next month? What will we be doing then as we go about our daily routines? Grumbling about the weather, or the Saints, or the rent.
But we must make this horrendous event in our lives mean more than a fewextra precautions. The lives lost at the restaurant must not be lost in vain. Let us rally around this event as a call for serious measures. We must protect ourselves and our loved ones, our friends as well as the strangers who cross our paths daily. And closer to home, we must live each day as if we might not be going home tonight.
If you wouldn't be returning home after work today, what would you do when you started your day? Who would you call . . . who would you kiss goodbye for just a minute longer . . . who would you smile at on your way down the street . . . who would you thank for another day of muggy New Orleans weather?
It was only by a cruel twist of fate that Cara LoPiccolo, Santana Meaux, and Michael Witcoskie did not return.