Who is My Neighbor?

This past week I’ve been reflecting on how my sense of place has changed now that a neighbor has been shot and killed across the street from where I live.

While I was away last weekend, Garibaldis Pena, 27, was gunned down as he put a car seat into his sister’s car. It appears to have been a gang-related incident police think might be tied to other killings early this year in JP and Roxbury.

It still seems surreal that this happened so nearby since I wasn’t here as it took place, to hear the three gunshots, to hear the screams of his mother as she emerged from the house, to hear the police cars and ambulances turn down the street, to see the mourners gather on the sidewalks around the house to light candles and weep together. Now things are back to normal, with little sign that anything happened.  

Mauricio, a Boston cop in my condo association, was on duty and was one of the first on the scene. He has a long history in the neighborhood and says this kind of incident is extremely rare. But this happens every day in other parts of the city, he said, a reminder to me that my experience of urban life quite different from many of my fellow Bostonians just a mile or two away. Our physical proximity might be relatively near, but in terms of social proximity we are usually worlds apart.

While this killing is disturbing, it doesn’t make me feel less safe or make me second guess my choice to live here. It does, however, make me more sensitive to the complexity of urban life and how easy it can be to exist in my narrow perspective without much awareness of the many other layers of experience going on around me, even in the same places. And it reminds me that I have a lot to learn about where I am and what it means to know my neighbors.