|Black Hawk Down: That's not Mogadishu, that's New Orleans -- an actual still of the black suspect in the Mother's Day Shooting of 19 people|
Chanda Burks and Margaret Washington, both of whom lost a child to murder last year, participate in a weekly support group at Watson Memorial Teaching Ministries at 4422 St. Charles Avenue. Helping Mothers Heal, its organizer Pat Watson said, is a program of Family Center of Hope, the church's nonprofit.
Watson's husband, Pastor Tom Watson, has been convening an anti-violence summit since 1994. At the last one, a woman in the audience who'd had two sons murdered said, "Our sons are gone. Who's going to help us?"
"My heart just went out to that one lady last year," Pat Watson said. So she put up signs and put the word out at other churches. More than 70 mothers appeared at that first August meeting.
Watson, a social worker by training, said she originally envisioned a program of six weeks, "but at the fifth week, they weren't ready to end." It had taken about that long to get them talking.
The group has shrunk from more than 70 to 7, she said. The woman whose pain inspired the program doesn't attend anymore, but Watson believes she got the help she needed. When we spoke Thursday Watson was preparing to take the group out for a Mother's Day dinner.How many New Orleans mothers do you know who have lost at least one child to murder?" The options were: "none; one; two; three; four; or five or more." After one day of being posted, more than 43 percent of those who had responded to the poll said they knew "five or more":
At a certain point Saturday afternoon, 43 percent of more than 500 who'd taken the poll said they knew "five or more" New Orleans mothers who'd lost at least one child to murder. I interviewed five such mothers as I put together a package of their stories for Mother's Day. Though it was difficult, at times, to hear them tell their stories, I don't think anything they said made me as sad as I was when I saw the results of that poll. There were six choices provided - from zero to "five or more" - and the most common answer was that last one.
Since posting the women's stories to NOLA.com, I've discovered the word "vilomah," a Sanskrit word meaning "against a natural order" that Duke University professor Karla Holloway has chosen to apply to parents who've lost a child. In a 3-year-old piece that DukeToday reprinted after the recent massacre in Newtown, Conn., Holloway writes, "A parent whose child has died is a vilomah.
Watch the evening news and you will see a vilomah. Scan the news on the web and you will read about a vilomah. Walk through your neighborhood, there are homes with vilomahs inside.""Vilomah."
A Sanskrit word meaning "against a natural order."
Freedom has ultimately produced the "Vilomah" in New Orleans, which is strangely replicated in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Chicago, and St. Louis.
What happened on Sunday in New Orleans wasn't "against a natural order" that had been created in New Orleans, at least by the black inhabitants of the city. Emergency responders, police, and trauma surgeons owe their vocations to the natural order of the black community [Accustomed to handling shootings, New Orleans emergency responders snapped into action amid Mother's Day carnage, NOLA.com, 5-13-13]:
The first ambulance arrived, and soon after, three more. Three Emergency Medical Service SUVs also rushed to the scene. As the medics waded through the crowd of about 400, people grabbed for them, seeking treatment for loved ones. Bloody gunshot victims were spread out on different corners.
The medics fanned out and worked quickly to determine which patients were in the most critical condition to get them to the hospital first, EMS director Dr. Jeff Elder later explained. Some of the firefighters who had arrived first had already begun bandaging gunshot victims, witnesses said.
In a city with near-daily shootings and a murder rate consistently among the nation's highest, New Orleans emergency responders are accustomed to handling scenes of gun violence. But Sunday's scene - the massive crowd, the multitude of victims - presented unusual challenges. Still, according to one medic, the responders snapped into action. From his post on the scene, Dr. Elder directed his troops over the radio.
"The best way to describe it is organized chaos," said the medic, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak about the shooting.
"People watch us work and think we're absolutely crazy because it looks like we're going in every direction at once. You have to be able to," he said. "You have 20 patients in a huge crowd. It looks like chaos because you can only spend so much time with each patient. 'OK this one's stable, move on to next.' If they were critical, we had to load and go."
Once the patients arrived at Interim LSU Public Hospital - where most of the gunshot victims were taken - the doctors and nurses methodically and calmly began treatment, said trauma director Dr. Norman McSwain Jr. Though the staff was initially a bit shocked by the number of patients that arrived all at once, he said, back-up personnel were called in and they quickly got down to business.
"Just a standard day in the trauma center," McSwain said. "We don't usually have that many all at once but it's happened before. We've had 25, 30 (gunshot) victims in one day. I've been doing this for 50 years. Part of it is to stay calm, because if you lose your cool you're not gonna give your best to the patient."So go ahead: look out the window of your office; look out the window of the car, bus, or train that takes you to or from work; look out the window of your dorm room or your college classroom; look out the window of your apartment, condo, or home; look outside the window at "freedom" and tell me with a straight-face that it hasn't failed.
Because the natural order black people have created in New Orleans is chaos, a flight from the civilizational standards white individuals have collectively created. But it's not just New Orleans -- it's Memphis, Detroit, Birmingham, Milwaukee, Camden, Newark, and numerous other cities (and counties) small and large across the nation that are awash in a "vilomah" against the natural order white people create and sustain.