Monday, November 11, 2013

When Tragedy Strikes

Dear Laveen:

Let's start with a big kudos for the generally positive and concerned tone with which the community responded to awful news of a shooting that occurred on Saturday night on our turf, in which an innocent young woman was murdered. Now how about a brief moment of silence for the victim Nora Osman -- may she rest in peace and may her family and friends find the justice they deserve for such a tragic loss.

As is too often the case in such situations, the internet tends to erupt with horribly vitriolic commentary that does nothing to help; I am grateful that our community FB group refrained from engaging in the vitriol this time around, despite coming close. As has been the case in the past, news unfolded almost in real time, with neighbors updating the group and seeking additional information after calling police about the mayhem unfolding around them. It brought back a rather vivid memory of when I experienced something similar back in 2007-2008. I remember feeling back then that my peaceful community had been victimized; it angered and concerned me, and it served as a catalyst for meeting as many of my neighbors as possible and starting a block watch. In our case, no one was killed, but it most certainly left scars and left us asking, are we still safe here? So let's get right past the question of whether geography matters -- it does not, as is often pointed out rather quickly in these cases. This is not common and I refuse to accept that it might become common in Laveen or anywhere else. The frightening truth is that this probably could have happened almost anywhere. Bad guys with guns showed up to a party that got out of control, and they shot people. We still don't know who they are or how close police are to catching them, but we blame them and no one else.

So how did the party get out of control? According to the neighbor who reported this to our FB group, a couple of neighbor kids knocked on her door earlier in the evening (at their parents' request), and asked if loud music would be ok. I can't help but again put myself in that neighbor's shoes and think, "Wow, these kids are considerate!" Nothing could go wrong, right? But it did go wrong, very wrong, and it happened somewhere outside of the neighbor's house party on the street, sometime around 11:00 PM. According to the neighbor, shots were fired and "kids" were running through her front yard trying to hide. Then the police showed up as the "kids" scattered ("kids" is in quotes because it sounds like they were mostly young adults). Prior to this turn of events, it sounds like there was nothing to indicate a problem.

Details are still emerging and the police are still investigating. Concerned community members likewise sprung to action -- some of us started immediately investigating upon hearing that it was a young woman who died, in part because the news media were not yet reporting this information and we couldn't help but want to learn more. My first thought was to visit her facebook profile (now inactive/blocked) to see what was written there. Sure enough, the RIP messages supported our guess that it was indeed Nora Osman. I then checked some of her contacts who had recently posted on her profile. From there I found a troubling post by someone who looked like a current/past boyfriend and a few other disturbing comments/images from others (for instance, a young woman kissing a pistol and her friends commenting on her "thug" style) -- but nothing that made me think that the victim might have brought on any sort of violence to herself. In fact, when I checked her twitter, instagram, and social media accounts, I was touched to read the following assessment of where she thought she would be in ten years: "Married doctor kids big house for my mama nd siblings" [sic] is what she said. Sadly that will not happen now because someone murdered her in the street, in an otherwise safe neighborhood.

I may have already invested too much effort looking into something that is ostensibly none of my business, but I sincerely feel that we owe it to our each other to get concerned. As one member of the FB group commented, this kind of violent crime has become too common in recent years. This is not a comparative statement, warranting the obvious correction that we experience relatively low crime in Laveen when looking at the entire city's crime rates, but an absolute one. We do need to own up to the recent increase in gun violence and make it go away -- not by calling people names, trying to blame entire categories of residents (new vs old, rent vs own, and similar), but by doing whatever we can to help.

As MLK famously observed: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." In this spirit, I say do whatever you can. Some have suggested that residents attend the monthly "Coffee with a Cop" event, others call for greater vigilance overall, but I'll suggest an ever so slightly different angle: Do those things if you can or are so inclined, but mostly just get to know your neighbors and care enough to be a little bit nosey. Saying hi to fellow community members and recognizing their faces enough to do so tends to help the rest naturally fall into place. Let's also remember to consistently reject the glorification of violence -- I'm sure we'll eventually learn that the suspects were young men proudly "thugging" or (gang) "banging" or similar. While it would be ridiculous to blame anyone but the shooter(s), I believe that our community can learn from this event, come together a little closer than we have been recently, and just maybe prevent the next tragedy from occurring. We owe it to Nora to try.



Anonymous said...

wow laveen is full of stalkers. its said that a young women died this way but that don't give people right to be stalking her friends family and everything about what was her life about. how sad that to know laveen people are like this. now days teen make up story or take pictures to make them self look cool but doesn't mean they are criminals.

PTB said...

In this age, it is all too easy to view and share this information. Posting photos of violent imagery and glorifying it will never be cool in my book. For the sake of those teens who think otherwise, I hope you'll tell them differently whenever you see it. I certainly try to.