Most people probably do not think about or even remember the crime scene in New York’s Greenwich Village on March 14, 2007, but I do. It changed my life completely. It made me think more about my actions. It made me respond differently to my surroundings. It made me miss home more than ever before. It took away my innocence.
My newspaper class traveled from Albuquerque, New Mexico to New York City, New York for a journalism conference at Columbia University. We had been waiting for this trip for 140 days. It was the second night we were in New York and everything had been going smoothly, considering we were on a trip with fifteen teenagers and two chaperones.
At about 8:15 pm on March 14, we left room 1802 of the Marriott Courtyard East Side Manhattan Hotel on 3rd Avenue and 53rd Street and went to the nearest Subway stop to go to Greenwich Village. After we got there, we walked around for about an hour and our newspaper advisor let us break off into groups to go eat. Me, seven other kids, and our advisor decided to go to Cafe Del Mare, three kids and the other chaperone went to a restaurant next door, and my best friend and another girl went to a deli across the street.
At 9:28 pm, I had one foot in the street, one on the curb and I heard the first gunshot ring through the spring-like night. Then all I heard was our advisor yelling “get inside, there is a guy with a gun!” It was a mad dash for the door at Cafe Del Mare and we were all pushing to get inside what seemed like the smallest doorway ever made. The next things I knew, the eight of us kids were laying face down under a flipped over two-person table, screaming, while something that sounded like a machine gun was shot more than 40 times outside the restaurant. The glass of one of the windows we were laying by shattered and police sirens were blaring outside, but our advisor was standing up, looking for a safer place to go. He found stairs to a basement and I crawled as fast as I could to those stairs. I was the second one to tumble down.
After about 45 minutes, we were able to leave the total chaos that was Cafe Del Mare. We walked outside and were met with cameras flashing all around us as we were going under the police crime scene tape. I thought this was the first, and would be the last, time I would cross police tape. At the deli where my friend was, the scene was totally opposite from Cafe Del Mare. Everyone was calm, not crying, and tables were still standing upright. As soon as I saw her, I started crying again and hugged her. It was the first time she cried all night. As we left, we went under some more police tape.
After a while, we got back to the hotel and our advisor ordered pizza and got us ice cream from the pharmacy next door. We immediately turned on the TV and our story was on every news station, nationally and locally. Four people died that night, a worker at a pizzeria about a block away; two auxiliary, unarmed police officers who were chasing the shooter; and the shooter himself was killed by police that rushed to the scene. No one from our school was physically hurt but this experience will haunt us for the rest of our lives. That was the first time I had heard a gunshot in my life and it was the loudest noise I have ever heard. We later learned that the machine gun sound came from a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol and that the shooter had enough ammunition to shoot 100 rounds. I had never seen that many police before either. They came by foot, horse, motorcycle, car and helicopter. I do not think New Mexico has that many police in the whole state.
I have experienced something many people have not, and will not, experience. I formed bonds with some people that were in the basement that will never be broken. When I first got home, my family did not understand how much I had changed and how much this has affected me. I am a very different person now. I see how valuable life is and how quickly it can be taken away.
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