Boom. I felt a tremor.
There is seemingly no speed limit around 17th Street in Poplar, Philadelphia. Cars fly past the corner of 17th and Jefferson Street like there’s a pile of gold waiting on Master.
And I knew the sound. That jarring, metallic jolt that comes in an eye-blink and pulsates away almost as quickly. Then, silence. And then, confusion.
I was lying in bed in my second-floor apartment, eating applesauce out of a snack pack. Greg, my roommate, and his girlfriend were up and down the stairs before anyone else. We all followed, suddenly encapsulated by our own curiosity. Our first-floor housemates and their friends were already crowding the door while people were poking their heads around the open doorway to see outside, stretching their arms wide so their phones could record video. Almost everyone had their phone out and there was no room to get past the steps.
A maroon sedan had collided into our stoop. Its front left tire was propped on the third step of our four level stoop and the hood had contorted upwards on the same side, exposing the engine area. Our railing lay demolished under the snapped-in-two bumper while one headlight clung loose like a jigsaw piece. No one took action because everyone was too busy filming. That was my first instinct, too, as I ran upstairs to get my camera.
People were far too ready to capture—especially when as we people should be eager to help those in dire situations, such as the someone who had just collided into our home. One girl that lived on the third floor of my house took it upon herself to race outside with a first aid kit, aggressively pushing her way through the madness so she could talk to the driver. She was doing something different than all of us. She didn’t have her phone or camera out or anything.
We have become a society of more than just viewers, but capturers. This is truest among young people because of their inclination to technology. The burgeoning mock-phrase “everyone is a journalist” is only so true when one considers the journalist’s innate duty to reach the masses. Today iPhones and other technologies allow peers to be clique-journalists within their niches, exposing their finds usually to a group of close friends, or sometimes a larger group of Facebook friends, who are expected to reciprocate their amusement in some fashion. The pay off? Often, a curt Facebook “like.” If you’re the man, a Retweet via Twitter.
The moments after a car accident are precious. It shouldn’t matter if we’re a journalist, a clique-journalist or any kind of anything. We’re human beings. Shouldn’t we be more like the girl first aid kit? That night, our desire to capture something was so immediate and infectious that we could have compromised someone’s safety. And I don’t exclude myself from this overzealous will to record sometimes tragic, but intriguing events—I try to capture it all if I think it’s worth keeping. In September, a SEPTA police officer was brutally attacked at the Cecil B. Moore station while groups of people did nothing—except film with their iPhones.
The poor girl who collided into my house that night had actually been pushed from behind by a man who who tried to drunkenly bolt through a red light. He amused our cameras and iPhones as he stumbled away, cursing loudly as he fled the scene a block down. The only red we saw that night came from his passenger, who was bleeding copiously from the nose.
And yes, my post was getting “likes” well before sunrise.