It could have been a terrorist; it turns out it was a drunk driver.
Victims could have been on the way to the morgue; instead only a few had to go to the hospital.
With memories of last Bastille Day in Nice, France the world could have braced for another attack from some deranged evil force. Instead the evil came from a bottle.
Carnival’s most heroic moment was in response to the car that crashed into a parade crowd near the Endymion route. By all accounts, emergency personnel were able to respond quickly, their task made easier by help from the crowd and there being few serious injuries. At risk though was the future of the 2017 Carnival season, which up to that point had been moving with unbelievable success beneath blue skies. Fortunately Police Chief Michael Harrison was able to quickly determine the driver’s condition and let it be known. A drunk person driving into a crowd is a horrible incident, but the news was comparatively comforting considering what the alternative could have been. There would be no terror alert this evening; instead one of the most incredible urban rituals in the world was allowed to continue.
Consider this, on the night of the Endymion parade there must be nearly a million people on the streets. (Truth is no one knows the exact number but it is a lot and not duplicated anywhere else.) Many of those people have been partying on the neutral grounds, some from two days before. There was music, laughter and dancing, which extended back into the neighborhoods. That’s how cities are supposed to work—a populace living closely together and sharing a communal celebration. It used to be that the biggest parade nights were the Saturday and Sunday before Mardi Gras for Endymion and Bacchus. They probably still are the largest but now there are big numbers on other nights too; beginning with Wednesday through Friday and Lundi Gras. Then there was the weekend before, which included not only parades but also the NBA All-Star game. By Mardi Gras night there was much to appreciate because a police force, which is way smaller than it should be was able to handle it all so successfully. Still to be answered is why none of the peers or associates stopped a 23 year- old man from drinking too damn much so that he created horror in the streets and set back his own life.
Wisely authorities at the scene decided, within moments, to let the parade continue. To do otherwise would have created traffic congestion and triggered misguided fear and rumors. Were it not for the beeping of their smart phones most people along the route would not have known what happened until later.
Civility requires that life’s parades must continue; if only the bumps, and those who make them, could be removed from the paths.
Story adapted and updated from “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” by Errol Laborde. Pelican Publishing Co., 2013. The book is available at local bookstores.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M. WYES-TV, CH. 12.