In the hours after the theater shooting the whole city and region were trying to understand how to react and what exactly had happened at all kinds of different levels. One of the news organizations helping law enforcement to deal with the very central nature of the site is the story linked here.
Soon enough it became apparent for me and many others that as horrible as this was we had a lot to be thankful for in the midst of horror. I was soon stating that I was grateful for the excellence of the first responders, the courage of the teachers in the theater and the dignity of the bereaved. This, region I would say and realize is still a special place.
But I was also deeply troubled by the event — not only because it was in a place I have used countless times, frequented by many friends . Not only because of the horrible murders and acts of mayhem. The heinous act committed by John Russell Houser was loathed and must be condemned by me for other reasons as well. I do not see this act as random in every regard and I also condemn much of Houser’s life and political-philosophical career. He was an institution over time, in the shadows around the edges of right wing dissent to the American political consensus. I believe people should denounce the people who are in their part of the political spectrum who violate their principles and beliefs. Houser and I both more or less have been on the far right of American politics. I do not want to burden this tragedy with politics but I believe that the political element is there.
Perhaps alone the fact that the shooter had been on numerous talk shows ( or a few show numerous times) is not an ideology of terror being manifest and does not make this political terrorism. The fact that he had run for office and been penalized for vandalism does not make his act a cause for which he killed or an act of terrorism. The fact that he plotted against lawyers who defended pornographic theatres and disliked this kind of movie does not make it terrorism but it does show he had thought long and hard about the idea of theaters as his enemies in a sense of armed struggle.. The fact that he was a lawyer, had a long history of violence and was a planner does not make it terrorism. However, police investigation in this case show a planned event by a man who hoped to survive it. The fact that police were on premises is what prevented his escape. He had disguises and a car with switched plates.
So, in light of all of this I must disagree with several people who have cast this as an isolated act of psychotic rage. America has no real third-party systems. It is absurd to think that the two parties will represent everyone. I’m not in either party and am not all that happy. Some who say otherwise are old friends and some of the acquaintances who hold office. But I must take a different view.
The day this happened was the day that Seth Fontenot was to be sentenced again for killing my acquaintance Austin Rivault. The theater shooting pushed that off the news. It was the day among others when Aurora Colorado awaited the sentencing of James Holmes for that theater massacre. It was the day a power outage and fallen tree occurred where I live.
I do not have anything to complain about compared to the families of the bereaved. But the troubles this added to are real enough. I could have easily been at the Grand at the time. My uncle Brian and his wife almost were but had to babysit grandchildren at the last minute. My niece and godchild had her boyfriend’s cousin among the 26 people actually in the theater where the shooting occurred. My niece was driving nearby at the time. An old friend had just left work there. But the deaths that occurred were no less tragic because they were not my close friends.
There has been coverage of the two murdered women. That includes international platforms such as the one linked here. There are also more regional stories by the media based here and one of those can be see at this link.
There has also been a thoughtful response from the University of Louisiana. I print a letter from the President whom I know personally and whose open letter I believe to be in the public domain:
A message from the President:
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette community is deeply saddened by the loss of Jillian Johnson, 33, and Mayci Breaux, 21, wh…o died in a tragic shooting at the Grand Theatre on Johnston Street last night. Jillian graduated from UL Lafayette in 2004. Nine others were injured, with one in critical condition.
The entire campus mourns the loss of lives in our Lafayette community. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends.
Jillian Johnson was a much-loved creative talent known throughout the community. She founded apparel store Parish Ink in downtown Lafayette and River Ranch, as well as the boutique Red Arrow Workshop in Lafayette and New Orleans. She had been a producer at KRVS, a National Public Radio affiliate on the UL Lafayette campus. She was a musician and lead singer for The Figs. She leaves behind her husband, Jason Brown, a 2005 graduate of UL Lafayette.
Our hearts go out to all who are impacted by this tragedy. As we experience shock and sadness, it is important to know that resources are available to help us move through grief. Students, faculty, and staff members affected by this tragedy may contact our Counseling and Testing Center at 482-6480.
As integral members of the Lafayette community, we are here to support each other.
E. Joseph Savoie
Since it happened I have not blogged and gotten the boost in view that might have brought this blog. I have been dealing with the shooting in terms of connecting people personally and feeling the pain myself and am glad
that nobody I know seems to have been there on site at the time so far. For two days after the shooting I squeezed in some yard work, meal preparation and family helping but several things need tending to and I am trying to get to everything.
The day after the shooting I was making lunch, doing minor chores, keeping a movie on in the background. I planned to see the work my mother has been doing to fix up Kissinoaks, one of my family’s sites. I brought her a stereo. She is based there while repairs go on and she tends to many family demands in Abbeville and Lafayette. Today I brought my brother Simon to see her there.
Mayci Breaux was close to a woman named Lacey who was my housemate with other people for a while and is a friend. She said, “I taught her religion for three years. She was one of my campus ministers. We also danced together for many years. Such a beautiful person.” What can I say to that except, “Really sorry Lacey….”
Shortly after the shooting I posted a notice from Peter who worked at the theater letting people know he was alright. Later his mother posted on Facebook and I shared her post as well. That appears just below this picture.
I have known Peter’s mother Imelda for 30 years. I am leaving out their beautiful French last names like Lacey’s Acadian French last name for their privacy. But it is an omission that makes things less clear. This whole thing is very much a near thing, a local thing and a regional thing… Imelda wrote
Our hearts are heavy this morning as we all grieve for those woman and the gunman who died last night at the Grand. Lafayette has been known as the happiest town in in the US. Today it is the saddest. There is great faith in this community so we will rely on the grace of God to help us heal from this horrible tragedy. I give thanks to God that our son, Peter, who works at the Grand, had left just an hour prior to this event.
I am still working through this.
There is a woman I like and just recently told I like who has to go to a lot of public venues in the next few weeks and I worry about her. I worry about America, mourn with the mourners and do see some signs of hope.