|Posted by Elwin Green on October 3, 2013 at 10:15 PM|
EIGHT YEARS AGO TONIGHT, on October 3, 2005, I wrote the first entry in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's first blog. The blog was called "My Homewood," and for four-and-a-half years, it chronicled life in this inspiring and exasperating neighborhood.
When I began, I had no idea - nor did my editor, Steve Massey, nor the Post-Gazette's web mistress, Mary Leonard - none of us had any idea that it would last that long, or how important it would become for some readers. It was an experiment.
I'll say more later on how that experiment came to be in the first place. For now, for those of you who may not even know about "My Homewood" and have only ever known "Homewood Nation" - and for those of you for whom this will be a reminder, here is that very first blog entry, soon to be republished in "The Homewood Chronicles," a collection of writings from "My Homewood."
7:58 p.m. 10/3/2005
Monday, October 03, 2005
Pay close enough attention, and Homewood, a community of 9,300, becomes a place of glaring contradictions.
Saturday afternoon, some 50 or 60 people -- young, old, black, white -- gathered on Frankstown Avenue for the dedication of "Season of Hope" a 20-by-200 foot mural that sprawls across the brick facade of the Meadow Lanes bowling alley on Frankstown Avenue. The mural was painted over a period of six weeks by West Mifflin native James Maszle, and resulted from a process of extensive discussion with community leaders, all under the aegis of the Sprout Fund.
It has 12 panels that alternate between abstract images of community and portraits of actual Homewood residents, replacing bleakness in the streetscape with brightness. The dedication ceremony -- and I call it that simply for lack of a better name -- consisted simply of a variety of speakers expressing their delight and pride in having such an affirmative piece of art prominently placed in the neighborhood. Somewhere along the way, it also took on a distinctly religious tone, as some of the speakers expressed gratitude and devotion to God.
Indeed, one speaker, Sarah B. Campbell, an 83-year-old who has lived in Homewood for 50-plus years, and whose image, along with those of two other senior women, graces one of the panels, went beyond gratitude and devotion to a statement of faith.
"We know that God has his arms around this community, because otherwise we wouldn't be here."
The statement brought forth enthusiastic "Amens" from the crowd. I find both the proposition and its
endorsement striking. In how many communities would someone say such a thing at a civic gathering, and in how many of them would they receive "Amens?"
This must be acknowledged: There is faith in Homewood. Not just formal religion, but time-tested, shameless confidence in God. I don't know how much of it there is. But then, I hear it doesn't take much to do great things.
There is faith, and there is art, and there is hope.
And tonight, again, there is bloodshed. About 7:20, the steady pop-pop-pop of semiautomatic gunfire made its way down the block. I called 911, as did I don't know how many others. The focus of the assault seems to have been a group of youngsters at the other end of the block; I think three of them are wounded.
One of them, for some reason, made his way toward our end of the block, limping. A group of friends and/or relatives surrounded him, several on cell phones, calling for help.
I think it was the first time I'd ever seen anyone who had just been shot.
I wished that I knew first aid, that I knew it well enough to go over and help. I don't, so I kept my distance.
It would not surprise me if there was retaliation before the night was over.
My downstairs neighbor said her five-year-old daughter knows the drill: She dashed to her room and got on the floor. After the shots had ended, she asked her mother, "Did I do good?"
"It's a shame," my neighbor said, "that she should have a drill."
But since she must, her mother had to tell her, "Yes, baby. You did good."
The block is cordoned off now, blocking all traffic except that from the church parking lot as people leaving the service across the street make their way home. The church building seems well constructed. I wonder how many of them heard anything?
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