The story goes that when Adrienne Shelly was doing some last minute editing for her twee movie, “Waitress“, the construction going on outside her Greenwich Village apartment was so loud and nerve wracking that she had trouble concentrating on her work. With her movie under a deadline, she stormed outside to confront the crew and demanded to know when they would be finished. Apparently, one of the workers became angered by her confrontation, followed her back into her apartment and hung her from her own shower rod and she died by strangulation.
That’s the story we are told anyway.
As usual, though, like with everything from convenient murders of actresses/directors to viruses that don’t actually exist, the stories we are told in life are the stories we are allowed to see or read or hear about, and typically have nothing to do with actual events, truth or motivation.
But this blog post isn’t about what’s true or not.
Not long after the National Emergency was declared on March 13, 2020 many people in communities all across the country started complaining of random fireworks going off. These were not neighbors simply shooting off fireworks because they were bored. These were professional grade fireworks, targeting specific communities and at times they were so close to my house, the inside of my house would smell like sulphur. In 2020, it started about April or May at random times and we tried to ignore it. It seemed as though it died off for a bit then it would start up again with even more veracity and frequency. These rigorous fireworks displays would start earlier and earlier in the day (11am) and would last longer and longer. It got so bad that my husband and I shouted up to the hilltop behind our house, where they were being set off, and screamed for them to stop.
As video essayists who work from home, my husband and I found it impossible to work with loud explosions going off just outside our door, rattling our windows and nerves and scaring our cat. But unlike Adrienne Shelly’s situation, there was no one to confront.
We live in a neighborhood of deep poverty and as the bombing campaign continued I noticed my neighbors were becoming less and less entertained or enchanted by these random, sporadic, long fireworks displays. Their nerves were frayed. The minute the fireworks would start children would start crying, dogs would start barking, cats would run and hide and the general attitude of the community was one of irritation, anxiety and perplexity. Even in neighborhoods where people would set off fireworks in the summertime, they had never seen anything like this. These fireworks displays were professional grade and never-ending.
After October 2020, they seemed to die off, became less and less explosive and finally we were given a reprieve from the brutal bombing campaign that had set our nerves on edge for months.
But, I knew this reprieve wouldn’t last long.
One year after the National Emergency was declared they started up again.
Does this seem like random neighborhood kids just having a little fun in the summertime sun? This bombing campaign in California left two dead and caused $3.2 million in damage. What a better way to clear out a portion of a community, level its business infrastructure and re-build it into something gentrified and unaffordable?
Two months after the violence committed on Ontario, California, a set of fireworks went off on May 5, 2021 in my neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA. Then on May 16, 2021 another bombing campaign took place just outside my house, in the same exact fashion as last year: professional grade fireworks on the hill behind us.
The following evening on May 17, 2021 around 9:15 pm my husband and I were sitting on our couch watching Netflix when all of a sudden we heard loud popping sounds that seemed like they were coming from our front porch, which is directly outside of our sitting room, where we were sitting at the time. The windows were wide open, as it was a warm night. I heard the popping sounds and texted my neighbor across the street “Was that gunshots?” My husband got on his hands and knees and crept out the front door and looked over the wall of our porch. He witnessed an individual standing directly across the street from our house, pointing the gun straight ahead and shooting up the street with precision. My husband crept back into the house and told me to get on the floor. I immediately got on my hands and knees and crawled to safety in case there were any stray bullets.
I have never had to drop to my knees before to avoid the possibility of stray bullets, not even when I lived in any of the three or four apartments I rented in Chicago when I lived there off and on over the years, and not even when I lived in San Francisco and rented various apartments all over the city, and not even when I shared a space with a couple roommates across the street from the projects. You would think I would be traumatized at having to drop to my knees for the first time, but I wasn’t. Neither was my husband.
The police arrived pretty quickly and spoke to the neighbors. I noticed my neighbors across the street were stunned. They were in shock. The look on their faces was heartbreaking. Their disillusioned confusion was evident. The reality of our New Normal was right outside their front door. For, apparently there were 20 or more shell casings in front of their house littering the sidewalk. There was police tape everywhere and for a brief moment, there was martial law. Cop cars barricaded the entrances of our street and no one could go in or out of their own neighborhood. Everything was considered a crime scene after all.
My husband and I watched the cops bumble around and try to figure out what to do next. We sat quietly on our porch, looking on with passive indifference, talking quietly to ourselves. Although we can’t really say why, we just know that this incident was not a local gang-related act of violence, nor did it have anything to do with any of the nonsensical explanations the cops were giving the locals to placate their fears.
These are the explanations: We heard it was a shooting over child support. No, wait, it actually was gang related. Perhaps it was over a stolen car? A house on the corner was the target. Yea that was it. Despite no ambulances entering our street someone got shot. But he lived. No. Wait. He actually died. There were about 20 stories tied to this shooting and none of them made sense.
My husband and I believe the shooting is tied to the fireworks campaign that took place behind our house the night before and it signaled out that this neighborhood in particular was the target. Days after this shooting took place across the street from us, another shooting took place in another neighborhood of our community. We believe that the random rigor of bombing campaigns in the form of fireworks explosions that took place in 2020 was to prepare us, all of us, for targeted violence against communities of color and communities of poverty, like ours, in 2021. I even mentioned this casually to my husband in 2020. I also said I hope I’m wrong.
A few days later I read on a social media post from someone I know who lives in Philadelphia that she has had to live with the stench of a rotting corpse in her building for days. I turned to my husband and said, “We must be living in Dickensian times. Pennsylvania must be the test balloon for such dystopia.” As I look around the crumbling infrastructure, blighted homes, boarded up stores and buildings, rubbled out roads, lack of food choices, lack of healthy living, in Pittsburgh, and the fact that I have had to endure nearly a year of nerve wracking explosions just outside my house, and now hear people in Philadelphia are forced to live with rotting corpses I wonder what is wrong with Pennsylvania. I mentioned to my friend she could come stay with us in Pittsburgh if she could manage the 6 hour drive somehow, but her response was “I am the only one taking care of this rotting corpse problem so I have to stay here and deal with it.”
When my neighbor across the street tried to talk to one of her local friends about the May 17 shooting he told her to be quiet and not talk about it. She doesn’t understand why people want to pretend like this triggering act of violence would want to be ignored.
Less than a week after the May 16 fireworks display took place, which we believe triggered the shooting the next day (May 17), another set of professional grade fireworks went off in the exact same spot. With cloud cover it’s hard to see the fireworks but you can hear them clearly.
As the controversy around the Covid shots is exposed, I believe the Trauma Industrial Complex will shift their energy (and funding) into more localized triggering events like further fireworks explosions and shootings. I’d like to be wrong, but I haven’t really been wrong about anything else yet. It’s the curse of being a creative who understands what comes out of a failed state.
The biggest problem the US faces isn’t that a failed state leaves a vacuum for well-funded violence against its citizens. The biggest problem is cognitive dissonance. As mentioned, my neighbor (whose parents were left shell-shocked-pardon the pun-the other night) tried to talk to a local friend of hers about the shooting and he told her not to talk about it. He basically told her to pretend it didn’t happen. She texted me, “This thing happened! Why don’t people want to talk about it? Why do people want to pretend it never happened?” This same person seemed to support the violence waged against a baby raccoon that was cowering in the corner of her neighbor’s yard. The police grabbed the baby animal by the scruff of the neck with one of those long sticks and when I told her the mother would have come and rescued the baby eventually and they should have just left well enough alone, she said “I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Stop talking about this.” The mother raccoon tried to walk into our kitchen that evening, the same day her baby was taken away. The mother wasn’t aggressive. We simply clapped our hands so she turned around and wandered off, stepping over our cat who was lounging in the sun. She was probably looking for her baby.
The same person who couldn’t understand why the locals wouldn’t want to admit that there was a shooting can’t herself admit that the removal of the baby raccoon was a mistake, and that it was not taken to the woods to be “set free” but was rather euthanized at Animal Control. When I told this 31-year-old mother of a 7 year old this uncomfortable truth, she responded with “The police would never do that. They’re not THAT mean.”
This is a localized, micro example of cognitive dissonance. But it reflects the dissonance of the nation in my opinion. It also reflects the lack of coverage for the fireworks bombing campaigns that took place all last year and will most likely resurface this year. Many in the Podcast Industrial Complex are outraged over the human experimental trials taking place in the form of Covid shots. This will sound callous but each individual still has sovereignty to make those decisions to allow themselves to be experimented on. When the National Emergency was declared on March 13, 2020 and the local governors and municipalities demanded their local citizenry close businesses, remove their children from school , lock themselves inside their home and eventually muzzle their faces like slaves-in-training, all of that was a choice.
But, enduring a year of nerve wracking rocket-like explosions outside my house, impaled almost daily with the sounds of bombs overhead, and then enduring a shooting so close it sounded like it was on my front porch, and crawling on my hands and knees to avoid potential stray bullets wasn’t a choice.
These bombing campaigns, in the form of violent fireworks displays, followed up with random shootings in the same neighborhoods are classic cat-and-mouse war time tactical attacks. Targeting vulnerable populations with triggering fireworks could warn them in advance of a potential incoming gunshot invasion, forcing them to either arm themselves to give authorities an excuse to disarm, or force the community to cower inside and insist on self-imposed lockdowns. This kind of tactical fuckery is happening all over the country, not just in my local community. This is an indication that all of us are under attack and the most obvious indication that war is being waged on us. No matter where you go or where you think you can live, these kinds of attacks are inescapable.
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