In Honor of Helen Hill

After taking photos at the Abeona Winter Formal two weeks ago, Paul and I went to Oak Street Cafe, our favorite local spot. While there, we visited with Helen Hill and her son, Francis. Francis attends Abeona; we got to know him and his parents (mom Helen and Dad, Paul Gailiunas) in the kids’ Sunday music class. Over breakfast at Oak Street, Helen gave me a photograph that she took of Will and Kate during a Music Together session. We talked about local photography resources, growing up in South Carolina, getting together for a “family” New Year’s Eve party with other Abeona parents, and laughed as Francis pointed to the Cafe counter, requesting donuts. When Charlie (the Oak Street pianist) sat down to play, Helen and Francis went over to the piano — and I took pictures of them.

We are just getting to know Helen and Paul. Paul is a physician and co-founder of a community clinic; Helen is an artist who grew up in Columbia, S.C. They are also musicians and involved in social activism efforts. Like the other families that make up our Abeona family, Helen, Paul, and Francis represent the kind of people that make us want to live in New Orleans. They are, like us, a family that has chosen to be here because they believe in the importance of making the world a better place and are willing to do the work that is required to see that happen.

The phone calls and emails reached us late this afternoon. From the Times-Picayune:

In the sixth New Orleans murder in less than 24 hours, a woman was killed and her husband shot in their home at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday, said New Orleans police, who found the bleeding husband kneeling at the door of the couple’s Faubourg Marigny home, holding their two-year-old son.

The toddler was not hurt; the husband, 35, underwent surgery at Elmwood/Charity Trauma Center, police said. The woman, 36, was pronounced dead at the scene. But friends identified the Marigny couple as Helen Hill, an animator and filmmaker, and Paul Gailiunas, a doctor.

We are feeling and thinking many things right now. But there is one thing that is important for us to get across.

Before you dismiss this grand tragedy and tremendous loss as a causality of living in New Orleans; before you blame the citizens, the local ‘leaders’, the corruption; before you resolve to forget this city and recommend its decay and elimination — remember that THIS IS OUR HOME. And it is important, vitality important, to all of us. New Orleans and its rebuilding should be a symbol of what our country stands for — that the suffering among us matter, that resources should not be saved for the needs of a privileged upper-class, that the incredible contributions of this city be celebrated.

PLEASE BE ACTIVE. GET ACTIVE. Make New Orleans matter in your life, because it does. HELP US. Help us build back a beautiful, strong, safe home.