Ever since word started spreading July 5 of the bleeding Virgin Mary statue in the front yard of a house on Broadmoor Circle, the once quiet dead-end street has transformed into a bustling scene lined with yellow police tape and cars from all over the country.
“The Wisconsin license plate kind of struck me,” said neighbor Greg Miller, 52. “But there have been California, Florida, a lot of other out-of-state plates. It seemed for a while like it might be the No. 1 tourist attraction in town.”
The home is owned by Hoa Nguyen, who is from Vietnam and does not speak English.
His nephew, Manh Bui, 40, estimates that more than 10,000 people have visited the statue in the last month.
The apparitions first appeared July 5, Bui said, when their statue of Mary appeared to be bleeding from her temple. The next day, he said, she appeared to be weeping.
Three days later, Mary and Jesus both appeared to be smiling, he said.
At all hours of the day or night, a congregation can be found sitting in rows of chairs beneath tents in front of the Mary and Jesus statue, which is illuminated by flood lights and surrounded by flowers.
Bui said he stands guard all night.
Some neighbors said they have called the police to complain about the traffic and parking problems. Some said they have come home to see unknown cars parked on their lawns.
Police routinely drive by just to check on the situation, said police spokesman Cpl. L’Jean McKneely.
“There haven’t been any problems,” he said. “We just heard a lot of people were going there.”
The heavy traffic doesn’t show any signs of slowing down soon.
The Nguyens are consulting attorneys to see if they can pour concrete on their front lawn and build men’s and women’s bathrooms on the side of their house, Bui said.
But as the Nguyens consider making the scene permanent, neighbors are growing tired of the heavy traffic on their usually calm — and narrow — dead-end street.
“It’s caused major traffic problems for us,” said neighbor Brodrick Hampton. “We almost had a wreck last week coming into the subdivision. We shouldn’t have to negotiate to come home.”
Hampton said he has stopped walking his dog on his street because he had to dodge too many cars. Now he throws around balls in his backyard so the dog can exercise.
“I’m very big on freedom to worship, but this is causing an issue with us being able to live our lives,” Hampton said. “We just want to go back to our normal lives.”
While the neighbors said the Nguyens and their visitors have all been very respectful and friendly, they say the traffic and parking issues are growing inconvenient.
One week the garbage truck couldn’t get through the street, said a neighbor, Preston Olinde, 56.
He said living down the from the pilgrimage site is “hectic.”
“It’s gotten better since the beginning, but sometimes they block traffic,” he said.
Some neighbors questioned why the statue couldn’t be moved to a church, which would be better suited to handle the traffic.
Bui acknowledged there is “a lot of cars,” and that the homeowners are concerned about the neighbors’ gripes.
But, he said, the homeowners have no intention of closing down the site.
“It’s gonna keep going,” Bui said. “It’s getting stronger and stronger every day. It’s gonna be going on for a long time because people are being healed so they keep coming back and bringing their families.”
Feuding families have said they were able to reconcile after praying to the statue, Bui said.
One Dallas woman who was preparing for surgery told Bui she received a call from her doctor notifying her she was healthy and didn’t need surgery anymore, Bui said.
Donna Couvillion of Baton Rouge said she has visited the statue almost every night over the last month.
“We come here to get our graces and blessings,” she said.