I’ve always been proud to be born & raised in Acadiana. This last week has illustrated just why I love my hometown.
When I heard about the shooting in Lafayette last Thursday, my heart sank. At first I was in denial, convinced that the breaking news I was reading on Twitter was a mistake. I started texting my family members to check on them. They were all okay, but I still couldn’t sleep. Acadiana will always hold a special place in my heart and that’s painfully evident during a tragic event.
The first real experience of watching a place I dearly love suffer was during the 2005 hurricane season. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the coast along Louisiana & Mississippi in the span of a few weeks.
My heart ached again in 2010 when the Deep Horizon rig exploded in the gulf and sank – killing 11 men. Not only was this a loss of human life, but the explosion caused a well to spew oil into the gulf for nearly 90 days. The environmental devastation was very difficult to watch. I felt helpless, but I was able to organize a benefit to send some aid down to the gulf region.
Last Thursday, tragedy struck Acadiana again. It was a sad and scary situation, but I knew that the people of Acadiana would band together and pull through – just like they had in previous tragedies. It’s incredible to watch – the community embraces one another like one giant family. Our resilience is evident in times like these. When you combine resilience with a community that bands together, incredible things are possible.When you combine resilience with a community that bands together, incredible things are possible. #lafayettestrong Click To Tweet
I’m not only proud of our resilience and community, it warms my heart that the focus in the aftermath of the shooting has been on the victims, not the shooter. We know their names: Mayci Breaux and Jillian Johnson. We’ve gotten to know them through articles & stories their friends & families have shared. They aren’t nameless faces, they’re being remembered and we’re grieving their loss. I’m so proud of that – it is a testament to the values of the Cajun culture.
The loss of these two young women is tragic. I’d heard a great deal about Jillian and the work she was doing to promote the Cajun culture. She and her brother founded Parish Ink – a company that sells goods that promote pride in the Cajun culture. I’m sad I never was able to meet Jilliam in person. She happened to live across the street from my brother and his wife. While I was home this past April, I was able to stop by Parish Ink and pick up a few shirts for myself and my sister who lives in Kansas City. I also visited her store, Red Arrow Workshop and fell in love with the eclectic collection of goods in the shop. My sister in law would always give me gifts from Red Arrow Workshop for the holidays and I’ve always treasured them.
We’ve all heard the phrase “Lafayette Strong” in the last few days. Anyone who’s watching can see that this more than simply a phrase – it’s being demonstrated in the actions that members of the community are taking each day in recovering from this emotionally traumatic event. Groups have gathered to make prayer flags, hold vigils and a friend of Jillian’s is making oraigami cranes as a symbol of peace. Businesses are creating Lafayette strong yard signs and t-shirts, donating proceeds to the victims. Many of them had so much demand that they sold out within hours. The line to buy a yard sign literally backed up traffic in town. Everywhere you look, the community is demonstrating strength and unity and it’s inspiring.Everywhere you look, the community is demonstrating strength and unity and it's inspiring. Click To Tweet
Thank you for the inspiration, Lafayette. You indeed are strong and we support you.