In response to my neighbor's letter ("As murder shakes up our quiet block, reality TV is an unwelcome intruder"), I agree the bludgeoning of Peter D'Agostino was a tragic, malicious, and hateful crime that shook our community to its core. Any murder is an uncommon occurrence in our tight-knit community and one involving a beloved friend and neighbor should give us a reason to pause and think.
Think? Yes. Have a more watchful eye? Yes. Lock your doors and fear for going outside? No.
My two children and I walked up the 1100 block of South Harvey, excited to see the frenzy of a reality TV show in all its filming glory. Admittedly, I bristled, realizing I was on the very block where a much unscripted Oak Park event had so recently occurred that I had to stave off a visible shudder.
In that moment I had a choice. I could turn for home and become paralyzed by the fact that life is fragile, or despite this harsh reality, walk forward to witness a rare and unique Oak Park event. I walked forward.
What I found was not an empty block, but a neighborhood out in droves. Lemonade stands on the corner, children with wagons full of popsicles, men, women, parents, police, and TLC staff members all standing in the light of day.
Children sat on the corner watching a house as if it was a big screen movie, moms had the opportunity to catch up and I had the chance to speak to a police officer.
I thanked him for the increased patrols in our area, encouraged the Oak Park Police in their continued efforts to apprehend the killer, and shared my shock and disbelief that this heinous act had even happened in the first place.
The taping of a television show near the block where a despicable crime had recently occurred is not an either or proposition. The arrival of something positive should not be excluded, simply because something negative happened days before. Again, a murder, at any time of day, is an exception, not a norm in our village.
In light of recent events, I understand seeing a staged fight scene may have been distressing to some residents in our area. This "fight," however, occurred at a time the block was peppered with tents, trailers, film crew members, carpenters and, lest we forget to mention, security guards. A director was there to quickly quell any fears. It was, after all, acting; no one pretended it wasn't. It was a scripted moment under the guise of an unscripted series. It is an obvious paradox. I can see why some would raise an eyebrow, but a staged scene on "Trading Spaces" is an exception, not a norm. In fact, this was the first time Banyan Productions ever attempted something like this.
Every neighborhood in America faces challenges and TLC's reality show continues to come into our communities and highlight the great people who live and work in them. "Trading Spaces" (fan or not) is a show about openness, willingness to change and a sincere love of home. Our southeast Oak Park community deserves to be represented in this flattering light.
It has been stated that everything changed in an instant as a result of a murder on our streets. It has changed everything for his family and loved ones and friends. His death will forever have changed something within our neighborhood; we cannot allow it to change everything.
We must make the choice, despite our wariness, to bring our children out in to the front yard to play again, to walk to the train again, to have 911 on speed dial and walk our dogs again. The fabric of our community depends on it.
From my point of view, the TV shoot was not an intrusion on our blocks, but a catalyst. You see, "Trading Spaces" didn't erase the black mark Peter D'Agostino's death left on our neighborhood. It never could. Their presence here only served to bring a nervous community back out into our streets. For that, I am grateful.