The old first ward in Buffalo is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. It's where the Irish first settled when they came to the city to work in the grain mills that are now imposing hunks of metal shading the small houses. Since the neighborhood is still home to Irish bars and neighbors, it's the place to be for St. Patrick's Day with its annual neighborhood parade. Nothing could be more welcoming than seeing the mix of floats commemorating deceased community members, police and firemen unions and a variety of other organizations that remind that Buffalo is still a union town even in these times.
Attending the parade makes me realize everyone except me and my friends know everyone in the vicinity, and greet each other effusively as they march by. I have a flash of that feeling I know so well, that of not being a part of a place. And that leads me to the disturbing story of a Congolese refugee and his family who moved to the First Ward and were victims, not once, but twice, of arson.
A long time resident of the community was indicted for both incidents of arson. There were the usual expressions of disbelief, and fortunately, great sympathy for the victim who had survived the horrors of Congo only to suffer in the First Ward.
This crime tainted the sweet camraderie and charm of St. Paddy's Day in what is called, the old neighborhood.