I have just received some news that makes me absolutely sick with sorrow and despair, so much so that I hesitate even to write anything here. I will write properly about it later on, but here are the essentials.
Ever since 1988 I have had a very dear pair of friends, Paul Gailiunas and Helen Hill, the best people in the world (now with a little boy also): both wise innocents, extraordinarily generous and self-abnegating, absolutely lovely in their temperaments and deeply creative also, genuinely devoted to the good of their community in a way that can be said of very few people in the world. They had been living in New Orleans for quite a long time, Paul working as a doctor in a clinic serving low-income patients and Helen making experimental animated films. They had to evacuate to South Carolina after Katrina; they moved back to New Orleans in August. And early this morning someone broke into their home and shot Helen dead. Paul was shot also, but he is in hospital in stable condition, I gather; their little boy is safe.
Here are the reports from the Times-Picayune and the Associated Press.
Just yesterday I received my copy of Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?. I stayed with Paul and Helen in New Orleans in the spring of 2003, a visit that I have often already looked back on with elegiac spectacles, but now it hardly bears thinking about.