Dear New Orleans, It’s Me Dana.

Hey New Orleans, it’s me again.

I am unfortunately writing this just one short month after my last letter to you.

But yet, here we are.

This week, parts of the metro area, specifically Arabi, got hit by what I can assume is the largest tornado that’s ever swept through this area. Thousands of us watched in horror as you could see transformer after transformer exploding behind Margaret Orr’s forecast as she was left almost speechless.

We all knew what was happening. We all knew our family & friends in that area were having their lives changed forever at 7:30 on a random Tuesday in March.

Pictures and videos quickly emerged as always, showing us the absolute devastation that was left behind. All of our hearts broke as you are sure to know someone in this tiny city of ours, including some of our New Orleans Moms whose articles you love to read.

One good thing about Louisianans however, is that we’re always ready to help. I know I’m not alone when I immediately made plans to clean out my closets of anything that I can donate. I rifled through all my Covid stock for cleaning supplies and eyed up my pantry on what I can stick in a box. There are droves of people going out to feed, clothe, and provide love to those that have lost everything. Our community is showing up the way we always have.

Because that’s what we do – we truly love thy neighbor ‘round here.

But New Orleans, you’ve been feeling less than neighborly lately.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

Happy-go-lucky Spencer Hudson should never have been shot in the chest while at his job on Bourbon Street at the hands of a 24-year-old female Sunday morning.

The next day Mrs. Linda Frickey, who has been described as nothing short of a saint, was brutally carjacked mid-day and drug for blocks until she died clutching a stranger’s hand. Her life was senselessly taken – and for what?

And these are just two examples of crime victims this week and their stories are horrific. 

Excuse my French, but what the *%#!?

I think I can speak for a lot of us when I say I feel like I am stuck on an emotional rollercoaster. I go from shock to sadness to anger to disappointment to fear to disgust. My group messages are filled with so much doom & gloom, I asked my friends today to list something they are happy about because right now life feels heavy. We are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with Covid as mask and vaccine mandates are lifted. We want to second line through your streets again. We went to hug strangers after a big Saints win. We want to run to Arabi and help our neighbors clean up their houses. But New Orleans, we want to do these things without fear.

I am an empath by nature. I want to get out there right now and help! Do you know what else I want to do? Hide. Cry. Stay inside. Because apparently whether it is 2 am or 2 pm, any of us could be the next victim. I can’t walk to my car now without my head on a swivel. I trust no one. NO ONE. We are living in the days where murderers are disguised as 4 teenagers walking down the street. We are living in the days where my TEN-year-old came home from school knowing the entire story about Mrs. Frickey, and I had to explain to her that the city is not safe right now, and there is evil in this world. My six-year-old overheard and asked questions too. WHY ON EARTH AM I TALKING TO MY CHILDREN ABOUT PEOPLE BEING KILLED DURING A CARJACKING? It’s a really wild notion and completely unacceptable that I even have to.

How can a city willing to help and love one another turn against each other this way?

And look, I know that New Orleans is not alone. Crime has gone up across the country since Covid started. I could get into all the stats and such, but at this point that is minutia. It’s happening. And it’s happening here. It is affecting the people I love. Mr. Hudson had dated a friend of mine. Mrs. Frickey was a 20-year friend to one of my best friends’ family. Prayers and love. Sending so many prayers and so much love to their family and friends.

But what I really need from you New Orleans is action. We need action from our elected officials beyond Facebook posts and empty news conferences. We need action from our district attorney to send a message that these types of heinous crimes won’t be tolerated. We need action from all of us, in any way you can help. Community watch programs, more video surveillance on private properties, volunteering for local groups that work with children, etc. Find your place to make a difference. I am currently in the process of becoming a CASA advocate in my parish, this is where I plan to make a difference. We can all talk the talk, but we’re at a point where we all need to be walking the walk as well.

Loving thy neighbor may look a little differently right now, but New Orleans I know we will make it through this. Pandemic, hurricanes, crime, tornados – there isn’t much that we haven’t had to handle in the past 7 months. But I know we can do it. I know we can get back to where we were. Everyone always says “It starts at home!” Well, New Orleans, you are our home. You are neighbors. Can we start loving one another again?

I would like to ask you all by starting today. If you read this far, do me a favor. Say a prayer for our friends in Arabi. Send good vibes and love to the Hudson and Frickey families. Do something nice for a neighbor, give a stranger a compliment, get out there, and spread your joy – even if you are not feeling so joyful, I promise it will feel good!

Let’s put this community back together, in more ways than one.

Dana Wattigney
Moving from Nebraska in middle school, Dana considers herself a New Orleanian 25 years later. She now lives in Belle Chasse with her husband Ryan, 10-year-old Mila, and 6-year-old Rex. As a local Mortgage Lender, there is nothing more satisfying for her than helping people achieve their homeownership goals. You can find her on the weekend doing DIY projects, cheering on LSU or the Saints, and spending time with her family. A lover of all revelry, there is no festival, concert, or event that she won't go to! Catch her with the Krewe of Cleopatra each Mardi Gras. She gets out of town with her kids as much as possible, they enjoy the outdoors, especially the mountains & the beach. Affectionately known as "Dana Dolittle" to her friends, you can expect her to have a random animal she is trying to help at any given time. Dana loves to write & says there are no topics off limits.

1 COMMENT

  1. You said that crime has gone up everywhere since Covid, but not like New Orleans. I’ve been in Charleston, SC, and it’s not like New Orleans at all. When I tell people we’re moving to New Orleans, every single person tells me about the crime. It’s the number one topic.

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