Like so many, I was in shock at the news last night. It couldn't be. I would've never imagined a shooter in our own sweet hometown, in the very theatre where most of us go with our family and friends on a regular basis.
It just didn't seem real. It didn't make sense.
I sat with my little family, all cuddled up together in our bed, as we all watched the news until late in the evening. We discussed the horrific event and then before we all went to sleep, we prayed as a family for the victims and for our city.
As I woke this morning, I turned on the news to hear more of the details discovered overnight. Again, I was sickened by such an evil act of a stranger to our wonderful city. Why would someone come into our state, into our city to harm us? Because, you see ... in Lafayette, we are one. We are united. We go out and meet our neighbors. We wave to people on the street who we don't even know. We've survived multiple hurricanes and storms. We help one another out. We love one another. We love our culture and there's no doubt, we love to have fun. We were even named one of the happiest cities in the country.
I put on my running shoes, plugged in my earphones, and went for a run in our peaceful, little neighborhood. I spent the time praying and thinking about this place I call home.
You see ... I was born in the very hospital where the victims were taken. My life began at Lafayette General Hospital forty-something (let's not get specific here) years ago.
I know this town like the back of my hand. It's home. It's always felt like home.
I grew up on Doc Duhon Rd (now known as Duhon). I climbed the oak trees and played "Charlie's Angels" with the neighborhood kids. I rode the bus to Judice Elementary School, after a short stint at Plantation Elementary.
My mom would take me school shopping at JC Penney when it was in the Northgate Mall, the only mall there was at the time. How thrilled we all were when we got the new mall, Acadiana Mall, on the south side. It's where I got my ears double-pierced (only on one ear ... that was the thing then). And, I ended up spending many years at the mall, working in retail at Brother's (yes, it was in the mall), Maison Blanche, Lerner (NY & Co., now), and JC Penney.
We would go to the Westwood Theatre when I was young. That's where I saw Grease and some of the Star Wars' movies.
I would go to the skating rink on some Friday nights and skate around with my friends to "Super Freak", "No Parking on the Dance Floor", and the like.
I learned to dance in this city. I danced for 11 years. I was a member of the Lafayette Ballet Theatre and performed at the Heymann Performing Arts Center for years. I danced with some amazing dancers and even met Mikhail Baryshnikov, while ushering for one of his performances.
Let's not forget I saw my first concert, Bon Jovi, at the Cajundome. That was huge for a teenage girl during those days. I actually saw them twice there.
The churches in this city taught me about Jesus. One of these churches is where I met my husband. We spent our dating years in so many spots around this lovely town. He went to USL. I went to USL for a short time.
I was married here. And, my precious La Petite Belle was born here in the same hospital where she has been receiving so much care and treatment in the last few months.
The six years that we didn't live here were some great years for us, but we couldn't shake the feeling of Lafayette being our "home". Any time we mentioned Lafayette to anyone when we lived in another state, we always referred to it as "home". Someone called that to our attention and we knew that we were going to return.
So many of us here, especially as young people, couldn't wait to get out of this city ... to move on to bigger and better things. But, the things that I had a disdain for when I was young, I find so endearing about our hometown. I think most people feel that way across the country about their own hometown.
As I ran this morning and just remembered how much this city has meant to me and helped to mold me into who I am today, I thanked God for the great people here.
Lafayette truly is filled with wonderful people. I have no doubt that this tragedy will make a city, which is already so strong, even stronger. People from Lafayette are very protective over their city and very proud of their city. So, this crazy idea of picketers coming to victims' funerals and all that mess, will definitely not sit well with the natives. I pray that this is not the case and they do not step foot into Louisiana for their own safety. It would not be good, but that's a whole other post.
If you're not from Lafayette, please know that this city is special. Those of us who live here know it, and those who visit experience it.
One of the victims was a local business owner and artist. I had visited each of her shops multiple times. She truly captured the spirit of our great city in her designs. I wore one of her shirts for my first half-marathon, trying to represent our city while we were there. Her stores have some pretty great LA merchandise - Parish Ink and Red Arrow Workshop.
I write this post to say simply this: Lafayette will not simply survive this, but thrive through this. What was meant for evil, will ultimately lead to the good of our city by uniting us ... drawing us closer ... creating an even stronger sense of community than ever before.