Yesterday afternoon, I found myself debating whether to bring flowers or food to the hospital. My friend Emily is in Hahnemann with a broken leg, an injury she sustained on Saturday night around 10 p.m. when she, her boyfriend, and several of our mutual pals were assaulted as they walked the two blocks from 15th and Green streets to the subway entrance at Broad and Spring Garden streets. In a random, shocking and unsettling act of violence, an angry group of about 100 unprovoked teenagers began throwing them to the ground and beating them.
Just a few days after 23-year-old Stephen Lyde was sentenced to 20 years for stabbing Thomas Fitzgerald during a May 2009 flash mob, the rioting of young Philadelphians has hit close to home for me.
Unfortunately, Philadelphia has become notorious for these violent events. In a March 2010 article, the New York Times called flash mobbing “a ritual that is part bullying, part running of the bulls” and noted that while flash mobs are not unique to our city, “they have been more frequent here than elsewhere.” A year after that article was published, police shut down LOVE Park for four hours after rumors of a flash mob were reported. Until last night, it seemed law enforcement had found a way to control the problem.
As I walked to the hospital, I wondered, How does something like this happen? It wasn’t that late! There was a group! She wasn’t alone! It was less than two blocks from her house!
I arrived at the hospital with a brightly colored bouquet and joked with Emily about how she’d once crocheted a wall-hanging reading “f**k cancer” for our friend who battled lymphoma.
She was doped up on morphine and may need surgery. Her boyfriend is so badly bruised that a zig-zagging imprint from the bottom of a sneaker was visible on his forehead more than 18 hours after he’d been assaulted. Three others sustained injuries and are recovering at home while several more witnessed the attack but somehow managed to avoid major injuries.
After the hospital visit, I realized there are no answers to why this happened and there is no lesson in this story. This random act of violence offers no opportunity to say “don’t travel late at night” or “don’t walk alone” or “be aware of your surroundings.”
The only moral I’ve been able to glean is this: F**k flash mobs.
Now, if only I knew how to crochet.