(via www.nola.com) I suppose I operate in a kind of perpetual state of PTSD, inured enough to the violence to report on it in a detached manner. Whether covering the war in Iraq or the violence of New Orleans streets, I believed I’d spent enough time in the company of death to keep it at bay. So as I drove home on that Tuesday, I put the violence away as I always do. But I was diverted by reports of gunfire on Simon Bolivar.
I was only about a minute away, so I made the scene about the same time as the police. People, young and old, wandered without direction, some crying into cell phones, others having to be restrained. All attention seemed focused on a white house with cheerful green trim and tables filled with food set up out front. Colorful star-shaped birthday balloons twisted in the wind, tied to a railing. At the top of the steps, bathed in the evening sun, was a little girl in a white party dress decorated with a large, pink flower. A man, who I later learned was her father, gently cradled her head in his hands.
I raised my camera and through the zoom lens realized with dawning horror that 5-year-old Briana Allen did not have a large pink flower on her dress. A bullet had emptied the contents of her abdomen. I continued to shoot the first responders desperately trying to save the girl and the police officers fighting to control the chaotic scene. As I shot, I realized that this was the worst crime I’d ever witnessed, and I fought tears.