To see what a city is like, you must look at the people. I’m always told that East Los Angeles is super dangerous, but there can be danger in any city you go to. I grew up in Orange County, which is forty minutes away from East L.A. Before I moved here, one of the bad experiences I remember the most in Orange County was when I was around seven years old. I woke up to gunshots and, at the time, I didn’t know what they were so I walked to the front door to see what those sounds were. I looked outside and all I saw were traces of the bullets going back and forth in different directions. Later, I found out it was a giant gang firefight. Still, I was never told Orange County was dangerous.
I never felt like I made a connection in Orange County, and I lived there the majority of my life. Then, my father bought a house in East L.A. with his girlfriend. She lived in East L.A. all her life and she didn’t want to leave, so my dad took me to live there when I was starting my second year of high school. I had to quit my football team, and was hated by a lot of the players, even the coaches, because of it. This left me with a hurt feeling from my old community. Knowing its reputation, I didn’t want to judge East L.A. without giving it a chance. Since I wasn’t on a team anymore, I’d go out to City Terrace and Obregon Park to practice football on my own. I would face the fence that separates two baseball fields and use the poles that hold up the fence as my targets. I would come to City Terrace Park a lot and eventually people would see me on my own. Some were nice enough to come up to me and offer to help me practice. I lost count of how many people offered to help and then talked to me. They would say how good I was or asked if I was on any football teams. Then, others would ask about my future plans, and I started to gain a connection with my community in my own way. Once, at Obregon Park I was invited by people I never met before to play a football game. I would throw some nice passes, and the people walking around would surround the game to watch. Everyone would cheer or shout like it was a real football game, which made it an amazing time for me. It was one of the best experiences I made on my own in East L.A. Never have the people in my previous community been this supportive and kind. It made me feel more comfortable here, and it actually reached me on a personal level to the point where I can say that I love this city.
I gained a positive connection to a place that’s always known to be bad. It’s not perfect; there are problems here like any other city. Once you ignore the bad comments, you’ll find very decent and caring people. During Thanksgiving, a fire started in someone’s house nearby mine. The firemen came and when they tried fighting it, it looked like they needed help. So, while the house and trees nearby were on fire, the firemen were struggling because there were only three of them. All the neighbors and people walking by ended up helping to control the hose to make it easier for them. The fire eventually went out because of the people helping. That happened in East Los Angeles, and it was one of the most inspiring things I’ve seen in my life. My relationship here is based on my experiences with the people here, and they fit well with me.