IN THE MIDDLE OF A SHOOTING IN NEW YORK
A few years ago, I went to the USA to study English in Philadelphia. The experience was really amazing. I was only 17 years old and with the controlled freedom, I gained from being in a country so far away from mine, completely dependent on what my parents could give me, I felt at my best. I spent most of my time in class, entered at 8:30 in the morning and left around 3:30 in the afternoon. At that time, in the American winter, you can practically do nothing, so I used that time to share with the family that received me and practiced my English as much as possible.
Through the university where I studied, sometimes trips or extracurricular activities were made. That’s how I learned to ride a snowboard, I met some cities around Philadelphia like Boston and Atlantic City. And I interacted with many people from more than 20 different countries.
I made some friends, but since I was very young compared to the rest of my classmates, I often ran out of the company to make plans.
That was how on a weekend when no one was available to go with me, I went to New York. It was the first time I went, and I went alone. I left that day early in order to take my bus from Chinatown (where I could get the cheapest ticket), I bought a round trip ticket and left like a champion sitting on the bus. Upon arrival, I bought a map and set out to do everything that could be done in one day.
I started with the statue of liberty, where after arriving I realized that in order to climb we had to have previous reservations. Luckily, after talking with the guard and begging him to give me a chance, since it was possible that I would never be in that place again, so he agreed and let me go in. After that, I felt even more like a winner. I had defeated the rules of New York tourism!
Upon returning to Manhattan, I walked to the place where the twin towers used to be. In those years, you basically found yourself with a construction zone and a wall that commemorated the victims. After a few minutes, I walked to Broadway Street and started to walk to the Times Square area. I must have walked about 3 or 4 hours, and while doing so I found a protest against the government of China, where they handed out pamphlets with very explicit images about the abuse he committed towards his people, and his children. The truth is that until before that, I had never questioned anything related to the subject. When I got to the times square I was crazy, all those lights, and people were something incredible, I had never seen anything like that. I walked around and continued on my way to the central park. Upon arrival, it was already late, around 5 and it was time to return. I could realize how gigantic it was, but to go through it, I would need to go back in another day. I took the subway to Chinatown and set out to find my bus. A few drops of rain began to fall, and more than how late it was, the day had left and it was already dark.
After some time going around, already dizzy with the map, I didn’t know where else to find the bus. I had the return ticket, but I could not find the bus stop of that company. It was getting late, it was almost 7 and I was still walking around the streets of Chinatown.
In a moment, while crossing a street, I hear a very loud sound, like a shot, so I raise my head, and my eyes focus in the foreground on a man with Asian features running towards me, and further back, another Asian man shooting, again to my direction. At this time I had already crossed the street, and the only thing that occurred to me was to put myself behind a traffic light. In the moment I get there, the shooter was just a couple of meters from me and kept shooting the guy who was still running. After a few shots, the shooter left the place. I remember all this in slow motion.
After the shooter left, I crossed the street, and I realized that there were many stores witnessing all this, and all the people there were looking astonished at everything that was happening.
I walked around the block and came back to the same place again, and when I returned I saw how the Asian that was running away from the shooter, returned to the same place where we crossed, clearly wounded, and sat on the porch of some apartments that were out there. A few seconds later, an exaggerated number of police patrols surrounded the porch, and tried to help him.
After seeing this, I gave up and I went to another bus terminal that I had seen before, bought the ticket, and got on another bus back to Philly.
For the first time, I realized how everything can change from one second to another, due to completely random circumstances. I went all the way thinking about what it would have been if any of those bullets had reached me. I was thousands of kilometers from my house, hundreds of kilometers away from the family that received me, and I had lived an experience I would never forget. A tremendously fortunate child, who believed himself the king of the world, in a second, thanks to an experience close to death, realized how small he was, how fragile life was. Today, 13 years later, I remember that moment, as if it had been yesterday …