The text message on that Thursday night ended with, “Cool if we have a party in the basement tonight?”
Living on Park Avenue comes with the notorious reputation of always partying. The pseudo cul-de-sac near the north side of Main Campus always has an endless pool of kids occupying porches.
“Sure that’s fine,” I lied in response.
I sat quietly in contempt on the carpet of our first floor apartment as it began to vibrate along to the beat. This wasn’t the first time I’ve dealt with an unruly party. I barely noticed the small cloud of weed smoke pouring through the vents and the occasional jiggle of our apartment door at this point.
“Let’s unlock it,” I joked to my roommate. “Maybe we can meet some new friends.”
He packed up his things and went to his bedroom, his patience running thin.
The scuffle started in the hallway. I heard people shoving each other out of the house, vibrating my collection of empty beer bottles on the opposite side of the paper-thin walls. I remember feeling the big stupid grin on my face forming as I tip-toed to my window, hoping for a front-row seat to the expected fist fight on my porch.
I slowed down when the first shot rang out.
Was that a gun? The rush of adrenaline kept me moving toward the blinds. A man was standing on my porch, aiming his gun down the street.
The silhouette was illuminated for a brief second when he pulled the trigger again.
I ran for my phone. Terror was quickly replaced with anger when a busy signal answered my 911 call. By the time I tried to redial it, the normal orange glow of streetlights were replaced by red and blue strobes.
The police removed everyone from the house, including my sleep-deprived shell of a roommate. He mumbled profanity under his breath as the offending residents began posing for a Snapchat in front of the line of police cruisers.
About nine of us were escorted to the 9th District precinct for individual testimonies, including the friend of the now-identified victim.
Each of us talked to the investigators that were working at 3 a.m. We developed symptoms of Stockholm syndrome as we tried to make the best of our situation, despite our guess that we wouldn’t leave until dawn.
My last bit of energy was spent as the shock of four somber people filed through the door into the hallway we were occupying. They stared straight back at us with clenched knuckles and pursed lips.
Blood stained their shoes, shirts, pants and hands. They recounted the story of carrying their friend to the Rite Aid and told us how the victim kept explaining he was tired and that he just wanted to lay down.
Midway through telling my version of the story, an officer placed a small plastic jar on a counter near me. Inside was a hunk of shredded metal.
“The kid was shooting a cannon,” the officer said shaking the bullet. “It missed his heart by a few millimeters. He should be fine.”
What sounded like a simple exaggeration set off a series of thoughts in my head. What if he turned to the window and saw me? What if it ricocheted? What if he shot inside my house?
What if I got shot?
I’ve been punched in the head once. I’ve walked up to the smashed remains of a car window and the hole left from the now-missing radio. I’ve seen street signs ripped out of the ground. I’ve confronted a man attempting to steal my bike – then watched him walk off defeated into his house across the street.
Yet nothing prepared me for witnessing gun violence so close to where I rest my head at night. It’s a jarring experience to have your home end up as the main story for the evening news. It’s even worse when your parents watch it.
So why are students still flocking from the safety of the suburbs, or the bubble of other state schools, to endure one of the most dangerous cities in America? Is a Temple education worth the constant whiplash of crime looming over our heads?
In this issue, we publish a special project that dives into crime on and off campus. Executive Director of Campus Safety Services, Charlie Leone, acknowledged the dynamic between students and and long-term residents.
“You have a culture that wants to go to bed at 5 a.m. That’s students,” he told The Temple News for the project. “And you have another culture that’s getting up at 5 a.m. to go to work.”
This difference in lifestyle, as we heard from many students and community members, can lead to tension and crime.
In a strange way, living in the same house for three years has instilled in me a sense of security, despite almost every person I know at Temple having been exposed to crime in some degree.
The bottom line of a college experience is to learn how the real world works. There can be a lot of frustration when you wait on hold to report a crime, but coping with these experiences is not covered in the tuition. However, the lining is silver and invaluable.
I’m not suddenly less materialistic because I assume everything I own will soon get stolen, but I feel better equipped here than other schools that offered me admission. I don’t live in a bubble where crime simply doesn’t happen or that it can’t happen to me. I abandoned that privilege when I chose to attend this school.
Patrick McCarthy can be reached at email@example.com.
Lol. The locals are “getting up at 5 am to go to work.” More like getting up at 11 am to go to the beer deli.