"When you get those rare moments of clarity, those flashes when the universe makes sense, you try desperately to hold on to them. They are the life boats for the darker times, when the vastness of it all, the incomprehensible nature of life is completely illusive. So the question becomes, or should have been all a long... What would you do if you knew you only had one day, or one week, or one month to live. What life boat would you grab on to? What secret would you tell? What band would you see? What person would you declare your love to? What wish would you fulfill? What exotic locale would you fly to for coffee? What book would you write?"

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Hi! So I am very happy!

I left off last with going to Philadelphia to see the 4th of July fireworks! We did it for my college roommate (and best college friend ever)'s birthday celebration. Since I live under a VERY LARGE rock and don't know about obvious things other people commonly know about, I didn't even know Philly did something so big- Which really makes me laugh now because Philadelphia is sort of like the birthplace  of our nation- so it only makes sense that they put on a firework show when the rest of the country is too. Sorry for that run-on sentence. But point was that this was very special for my roommate to see the fireworks--it's something she's always wanted to do!

Anyway, so here's what went down:

My parents dropped me off (fabulous) in the middle of Philly because all the surrounding streets where the festival was were all closed. So I got out and just walked to where my friends were. Now, a year ago a MONTH ago--I would not have had the courage and bravery to do this. Anxiety would have over come me. Walk? In philly? By myself? In a city I've never been to? What?

But thanks to my experiences in Europe....walking around (totally lost) exploring, without Internet or my iphone and just a map, by myself, and being OK and figuring things out in other languages and like, taking CABS and cool stuff like that--I totally had the confidence to literally just jump out of the van and I was all like ready, set, go. Even though I DID use my iphone for its mapping gps features (i.e. I was the blue dot moving and the red dot was the Philadelphia museum of art), I still felt proud of myself.

So the rest of the night was composed of concerts, sitting on pavement in a circle playing games, telling "one word" stories to pass time, Polly pepper, and eventually the fireworks! (at 11).

They ran for about 30 minutes. It was crowded. So, so crowded. Shoulder-to-shoulder crowded! About halfway through, we heard these two very LOUD "bangs" behind us. Now, I have never heard a gunshot in my presence (I consider myself blessed for this), Just on TV. So I couldn't actually say, but in my opinion it didn't sound like gunshots. I pictured gunshots to sound piercing, louder, and....i don't know....sharp. These sounds were low pitched, hollow almost. Regardless- I'm pretty naive and can't base my sound-knowledge on TV only. As soon as I heard the "shots" I thought to myself, This is a really bad place (or a good place if thats what youre trying to do) to shoot people.... so many people could die here. And besides the extreme loudness in terms of proximity, the shots would easily blend in with the booming of the fireworks above.

About ten seconds later, people around us start screaming, and running.

My first thought- no lie- was that I had no cellular reception (since there were too many people there), and wouldn't be able to tell my parents I was OK, if I made it. My obvious assumption was that those two noises were guns, as did a couple others, obviously. So-in adrenalineness-I latched on to two of my friends around me, wary of where some of the others were- and we ran a short distance away where we could further assess the situation. At that point the crowd had calmed down some, people stopped running and there did not appear to be any apparent danger. So being that the fireworks were so special and were still not over- we went back into the crowd to finish watching.

My adrenaline was still coursing through though, of course. As you know, it doesn't just stop, even if danger threat is over. It takes awhile.

But the most important part of that moment was the realization of how terrifying a gun is. I knew prior how dangerous they are, but never actually found myself in a situation where one was involved. In my head, I reviewed common nursing gunshot wound care (I know, dorky), and basic training that I learned from TV That I just happened to know about what to do.

But it made me feel so vulnerable. I can fix wounds. You can heal from wounds. Scrapes, bruises, hits, you can all heal from. Even a stab wound. At least with a stab wound, you would have to be specifically targeted. Someone that you pissed off has to be specifically close enough to you and really mad at you. But a gun? A gun can be an accident, its easy to mis-target. Unless you are being hunted down by the SWAT team.  Its so easy to be in the exact wrong place, wrong time. There are a lot of stupid people out there with guns that can't aim. Its a lot harder to heal from a gunshot. With a gunshot, its a lot harder to help yourself (if you're conscious). You have to depend on other people around you to care enough to help you instead of run like hell. Which you know, is kinda scary.

So I pulled my over-top shirt around me tighter, as if it were some sort of bullet proof vest. I felt so jumpy in my skin, so vulnerable, so....unprotected. So little, so weak. THe possible "shooter"(s)could be anywhere, at any different direction and could be targeting anyone or any type of race/group/gender/etc. 

Eventually we overheard from a lot of people on the streets that the sounds were M-80's and set off by teenagers in the middle of the crowd (stupid), and that is what caused people to run and scream, which caused lots of other people to wrongly assume what it was, and run and scream even more.

But pretending as if it were actually a gun....I was in such disbelief. Despite being in New York City all the time, and going/living in a school thats five minutes from Trenton, NJ, and being in many other "dangerous" types of situations (including a shooter being on my campus once and my high school receiving more than 10 bomb threats a month) , I had never, ever been in that much danger at once. I couldn't believe that me, little me from farmville, NJ had found myself in the middle of a crowd that was being shot at?

It was definitely a life-experience though, even if it wasn't actually a gun. I plan to use that moment of complete terror in my writing, particularly in my novel i'm writing right now. Even if it wasn't real, i thought it was at the time, and will use the thoughts in my head i had in my writing. Its amazing how everything truly slows down when you're "on" adrenaline. You remember everything. You feel as if you could run four miles and be fine. Lift up your friend next to you. Do anything as long as it means survival. You see things better, hear things better, do things faster. Reflexes are sharper. Its fascinating! I love an adrenaline rush, but certainly don't favor finding myself in that kind of rush again.

Well, after that was all over and done with, we were safely back in our friend's apartment. Even though it is highly-not-recommended and not in any way a good idea for me to stay up late, we ended up staying up all night. Not intentionally, of course. But we sat up talking for so long that by the time we decided to turn off the lights, we realized the sun was rising. Had to go see that! So of course, we climbed up to the roof and watched it and kept talking, and watched the city wake up at 6 am.

So, even though I am a goody-two -shoes and don't typically do things like fight gunmen, drink more than I should have, climb to rooftops, and stay up all night, It was extremely fun, so-European-and SO mid-twenties! I have to do things like this, once in a while. Its like some sort of rite-of-passage for being a twentysomething. But overall, we laughed SO SO MUCH, which I needed SO SO MUCH, and talked and talked and talked, and just had a good time. It was really nice.

The next Late afternoon  morning, we went to brunch at this REALLY GOOD PLACE right next to the apartment. It was amazing! Despite feeling like I wanted to throw up everything in my stomach (even though there was nothing in my stomach because I forgot to eat), I got eggs and toast......Amazing. The whole time I kept thinking, this is so European. This is SO EUROPE! I actually was expecting them to start speaking Dutch or French (which my friends were doing, actually), and to have to pay in Euros. The water was european-like, the forks were european! Yes, Forks can be european! Even the crowd in the place was so European-cafe-ish. A group of business men in front of us, a guy in sandals with his macbook and a bagel and expresso reading the paper next to us, two moms in front of us with their babies in bassinets on the floor, meeting for coffee and lunch....the waitress even looked right out of some European magazine of sorts. It was all just amazing and really made me miss Europe. Also, my friends and I (somehow) managed to have the most intelligent conversation I have ever taken part of, despite having had no sleep and being extremely hungover, we managed to debate the actual cause of the civil war and therefore all the other wars in history and whether or not religion was the route of all of it. Blew my mind. Also, so European. Am I stereotyping Europe enough? probably. I'll stop.

Well I have officially typed way longer than you will ever want to read, so my apologies. The good news is some interesting life lessons were learned (learnt?) and that is what matters. Cheers to being 23!

~A Naive Writer in a Ready for a GSW Nurse's Body

Sorry i crossed so many things out in this post! :-p


Anonymous said...

An (superb) Writer in a Nurse's Body,

I REALLY enjoyed this post, Julie! I too (its PJ btw) encountered a variety of emotions when those 'gun shots' erupted. Thankfully it turned out to be some teenagers having some holiday fun, but it could have been very different indeed!

I had fun too staying up late and taking part in the traditional activities of college life! Now I have to visit Europe - I very much enjoyed our Cafe experience and if thats what Europe is like, sign me up!

PS - come party with us next time and I can promise you many more 'intelligent' hungover conversations, hahahahaha!


A Writer in a Nurse's Body said...

Thank you PJ!!!! I am very much looking forward to spending more time with you!!! Much, Much fun! Thank you for reading :-) ~Jules