After Tragedy: What It's Like To Live In Lafayette, Louisiana

by Ashley Trahan

While others may think they live in a wonderful city, I know, for a fact, I do.

Ranked number one by the Huffington Post in 2014, Lafayette is titled to the “happiest city in America.”

I grew up in the small town of New Iberia, about a 20-minute drive south of Lafayette.

However, I was in Lafayette every other weekend as a child, teen and young adult, so it was practically my second home.

I decided to move to Lafayette about two years ago to be closer to my university, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, of which I am now a proud alumni.

But, what happens when tragedy strikes in the heart of what is supposed to be the happiest place in the nation? Allow me to enlighten you.

It was a normal Thursday night in Lafayette, until about 7:30 pm. Facebook and Twitter started going crazy with the hashtags #LafayetteStrong and #PrayForLafayette.

Just when you think something like this can never happen in your hometown, it does.

The Grand movie theater on Johnston Street, about five minutes from where I live and five minutes from my university, had a shooting take place in theatre 14 during the movie, “Trainwreck.”

As I sat there staring at my phone screen, I couldn’t help but think, “Not here, not the place I call home.”

It was a shock to the system and absolutely heart-wrenching.

The place in which I have practically grown up, where I received my college degree and the place I considered a safe haven for my entire life was suddenly changed forever.

The population of Lafayette Parish (county, for all you other folks) is about 125,000 strong and growing by the day. We are a tight-knit community.

I can drive up and down the main street of my city and now see "Lafayette Strong" and "Pray For Lafayette" written on various signs of local businesses, as well as business chains.

This makes my heart glow with happiness and pride for my city.

Along with "Lafayette Strong" on signs of businesses, you will also see thousands of yard signs, banners and t-shirts scattered across not only Lafayette, but the surrounding cities as well.

Lafayette residents showed up at Cajun Field, our local college football stadium, to purchase Lafayette Strong yard signs, decals and t-shirts.

Hundreds of vehicles flooded the parking lot to purchase these items, and 100 percent of the proceeds went to support the victim’s families.

I am extremely proud to be considered part of the Lafayette family.

Some of my favorite things about this city are the multitude of opportunities to get involved with the community.

I have attended a number of artwalks here in Lafayette, which are held in the Downtown Lafayette Cultural District. These art galleries display works by the best of local and regional artists.

As well as Artwalk, Downtown Alive is another incredible event that takes place in the heart of the Lafayette area, where the residents can enjoy live music and drinks.

I believe my favorite event of all is one that happens only once a year in April: Festival International de Louisiane. This event started in 1986, and has been a tradition for Lafayette residents ever since.

This festival brings a variety of unique and emerging performers, food vendors and artists to Southern Louisiana.

You never believe a tragedy such as this will hit in the place you love the most, but when it does, the city will never be the same.

This event, however tragic it may be, has brought Lafayette closer as a community, as we pray for the families of the women whose lives were taken too soon.