A Tale of Two Parklands

Breanna Wiersma; Copy Editor; wiersmbm@plu.edu

It’s  2 a.m., and I’ve woken up with an annoyingly persistent headache. I don’t have a car, my friends are all sleeping and I’m out of ibuprofen.

I do what I assume anybody would do: pull myself out of bed, slip on my shoes and walk to the AMPM half a mile away to get some medicine. I lock my door on my way out of the house and bring my cell phone with me, but that’s all I do to prepare. For me, living in and navigating Parkland doesn’t require much planning. After twenty uneventful minutes, I’m home again and have a much better chance at getting some sleep.

Parkland doesn’t scare me, and I don’t really see why it should.

My context definitely shapes the way I see Parkland: my working-class family and neighborhood, my current little rental house on a street full of college students and my wallet that hasn’t ever been stolen all lead me to trust in this community more than many PLU students would.

When I first came to PLU, I knew Parkland through what I’d heard from other Lutes: it was dangerous and violent and entirely separate from PLU. I was warned against gun violence and gangs and murder. I stayed on campus unless I was with friends and on a specific mission.

However, my actual experiences in Parkland challenged that. When I took trips to get coffee and back, I managed them sans catastrophe. I found that quick “hellos” to strangers on the street usually warranted friendly greetings back. I started working in the community and making consistent contact with the people who live here. Parkland started to feel human to me.

This doesn’t mean that I’m never afraid in Parkland, now, but I work to recognize the humanity of the people who live here before I decide to feed my fear. During the rare times that anything still makes me nervous — I’ve been catcalled and seen an argument start to get aggressive — I call a friend to feel safer and have an opportunity to ask for help if the situation escalates. I’ve never needed more of an emergency plan than that.

I go to Saars for groceries without ever encountering trouble, make late evening walks back from the schools I volunteer with and walk h

Photo courtesy of Emily Khilfeh

ome at midnight (or two or four in the morning) on the nights that we’re printing The Mast without being afraid.

I can do all of these things because I’m not scared of Parkland. I’ve learned not to be.

Emily Knilfeh; Copy Editor; khilfeeh@plu.edu

The first thing to know about me is that I am, by nature, an extremely nervous person. From a young age my dad taught me that, when out and about in the world, diligence was key. Even in my quiet hometown, he warned me about jogging alone. Despite my worries about the safety of living off campus, I wanted to have the college experience I’d dreamed of: living in a house with my friends.

Where my house is located isn’t exactly a bustling college-kid area. It’s just outside of Campus Safety’s shuttle service sphere, and while there’s another house next to us where PLU students live, it’s mostly residential.

Living off campus just requires planning. I think about what I need to bring to campus I leave home so that I won’t have to come back later. I try not to walk home in the dark if I can avoid it and never listen to anything if I walk home at night. If I’m lucky, I can catch a ride home with one of my housemates. If I can’t, I just try to stay on campus as late as I can before I call Campus Safety to take me home.

I categorize. Walking home is always fine before dark. It’s the worst walking home during rush hour because of all the cars. The most active nights are Friday and Saturday, and I try not to walk home late on those days.

The scariest thing that’s happened to me was this semester, when I was walking home around 6:45 p.m. on a Saturday. A man on a bike started following me, and then later a man in a car turned while I was crossing the street and drove at me. He stopped the car and the man on the bike and the man in the car yelled at each other. Nothing happened to me, but I was fairly shaken. I called one of my housemates while I finished walking home.

To be honest, I am more scared to walk home now. But the next day, I made sure to walk to campus and then walk home that night. I knew if I didn’t walk to campus and back the next day, I might start avoiding it altogether.

The best thing about walking home, though, is all the houses. They’re all different and charming. In the little glimpses through the windows you can get a look at the lives of those who live here. There’s an incredibly green lawn with ornaments. A house with a room completely dedicated to football. Kids that play basketball across the street. It’s a place where people live, like anywhere else. And now I live here, too.

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