Airbnb Tragedy on Halloween

Some mornings I wake up with a burning desire to vent, on paper. Today is such a morning.

Eight days ago, five young black people were murdered at a Halloween party at an Airbnb rental in an upscale (mostly white) town near here called Orinda.  Orinda is the last mostly-white suburb before the Caldecott tunnel that takes you to San Francisco by way of Berkeley, Emeryville, and Oakland.

The news channels have been discussing it ever since, naming the victims (none from Orinda), the victims’ families, the Airbnb host, the renter, and what Airbnb is going to do about it so that it never happens again.

It was advertised as a mansion party. 100 people showed up. The party host had hired a deejay (he was one of those killed). The party was supposed to be fun. People came from all over – Vallejo, Richmond, Antioch, Pittsburg, San Francisco, and many other towns.

Orinda neighbors called the police twice for noise complaints. The two police units were in the neighboring town of Lafayette assisting that jurisdiction. By the time the police arrived at the party, an hour had passed.  Shortly before their arrival, there was gunfire. By the time the police were on the scene, multiple people had been shot and three were already dead.

I was discussing this briefly at senior aerobics when one of my classmates said something about hoodlums not belonging in Orinda.

I thought back to one interviewed party-goer saying to a reporter, “People were there to have fun.”

It was Halloween. There was music and a deejay.  I look back at my twenties and think of the multitude of parties I attended where I might not have known the host or most of the people there. It was exciting, the thought of meeting someone new. It was also the Midwest in the late 70’s. I never got shot at. Nobody died.

“They weren’t all hoodlums,” I said. “Sure, the gang bangers that killed the people were, but the others were there to have a party.”

The woman looked at me sideways and walked off to get her weights. I hadn’t convinced her one bit.

“Airbnb doesn’t belong in Orinda,” an interviewed white person said on the news last night.

Airbnb rents over two million rentals every single night. The CEO said yesterday that because of the five killed, there will be policy changes at the company. Every rental will be verified.  Party houses will be shut down. Airbnb even offered to pay for the five funerals.

I wonder what the woman at aerobics thinks about that.

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time does not make a person an automatic hoodlum. No one attended that party expecting to die.  Of course I didn’t know any of those young people. I am an old lady from Iowa living in California’s supposed safest city, as reported last week in the Contra Costa Times. It is only fifteen miles away from Orinda.

Lumping all those young black people in the hoodlum category really bugged me. I had to get up this morning and vent.

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