Experiencing shooting-related fear and chaos

Experiencing shooting-related fear and chaos

I have a bit of an unusual blog post this time. Usually, my blog posts are primarily sharing the photos I take. However, this time, I wanted to tell you about a scary and surreal experience I recently had while being close to a shooting while attending fireworks with a friend on the Parkway in Philadelphia, US.

The Philadelphia fireworks are by far the largest in the region. With Philadelphia being the birthplace of America, there tend to be a whole set of events for two weeks with the 4th of July fireworks being the “grand finale”. I had never been to those fireworks and, due to COVID, they had not taken place for the last three years so many, including myself, were looking forward to the event.

The afternoon started normal enough. We arrived in the city early in order to make sure we had a good parking space and to do some sight-seeing before the evening concert and fireworks. With the declaration of independence having been written in Philadelphia and Philadelphia being the original capital until 1800 it seemed very appropriate to see some of the historical sites in the birthplace of America on Independence Day. Below you can see some of the photos from the visit:

After some sight-seeing and grabbing some dinner we went to the actual event site, on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Before the actual fireworks, there was a street festival with many activities and a concert. It was a beautiful day and evening and the turnout for the event was great, including many families with young kids. Attendees brought blankets and chairs and made themselves comfortable on the beltway to watch the concert followed by the fireworks.

The fireworks started uneventful. Everyone had gotten up and enjoyed the beautiful fireworks against the backdrop of the Beltway and the Philadelphia museum of Art.

However, minutes after the fireworks started, the atmosphere, which had been great, changed entirely within what seemed like a fraction of a second. People were visibly panicked and started moving away from the fireworks and Parkway, some running, some walking, some stumbling. It was completely unclear what was going on, but clearly everyone wanted to get out of there and things turned into complete chaos. As there had been a 4th of July shooting earlier in the day in Highland Park, many people were likely on edge and immediately feared for their lives. The fireworks did not help either as it sounded like shots being fired. This video, which I took accidentally while trying to get off the Parkway myself, give you an idea about the chaos we were experiencing.

It is hard to describe the feeling of the moment. It was remarkable to go from a relaxing, beautiful, evening with everyone enjoying the fireworks to a sudden panicked crowd trying to get out of the Parkway as quickly as possible while the fireworks were still going. It felt like a surreal, almost out of body, experience. There was visible panic on people’s faces and the main sentiment that overcomes you is a need to “get out NOW!”. You heard people running and screaming and some appeared to have fallen on the ground. Families were bringing their kids to safety. As you can see on the video, some people looked for safe spaces, such as behind cars while trying to figure out what was going on. Many were on the phone letting others know that they were ok or trying to co-ordinate with loved ones.

It was remarkable to see the switch from everyone just enjoying the fireworks on a nice evening to suddenly seeing fear and panic on everyone’s faces and everyone running. The change in mood happened very quickly. I was by a fence and before I realized it the crowd was pushing me into the fence. I was fine, but the fear on people’s faces and the panic that suddenly set in is something that I will not easily forget. One of the things that struck me is that everyone is in fear and trying to get out but nobody really knows what is going on at all. Survival instincts kick in and you are just trying to get out as quick as possible.

Later on, we learned that two officers were shot right after the fireworks had started. You can find a news article about the event, including the panic it created, on NBC Philadelphia. Luckily the officers recovered quickly and nobody else got hurt, but it was a very scary and surreal experience at the time.

We escaped through a side street and ended up by a Target, a local grocery/department chain. To our surprise, we actually had a better view of the fireworks from there than from the Parkway. At that location things appeared calm and safe as people were standing around and there was police calmly standing there. Many people stood around to watch the fireworks.

I have been reflecting on this experience. When you look at the main news sources, this shooting is hardly mentioned. Nobody got killed and in the overall scheme of things, it was a minor incident. However, it felt very different when you were there and you are suddenly in a panicked group of people trying to get away as soon as possible. The switch from everyone enjoying a nice evening with fireworks to being in fear and experiencing chaos was remarkable and something I will never forget. Although nobody got seriously hurt, it still was a very scary and traumatic moment impacting thousands of people. I can only imagine how the experience must have been like for young kids who were attending. Since that evening, I have told a few people about my experience and often get the reaction “I do not go to such big events anymore as I am afraid of getting shot”. It is a stark reminder that mass shootings are impacting people well beyond those who are actually directly impacted.

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Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture is a 42-acre sculpture park near Trenton, NJ. It was founded by John Seward Johnson II, the grandson of Robert Wood Johnson, who in turn was the founder of Johnson & Johnson. The park is a great place to walk around and see sculptures from Seward Johnson and others. It is nicely landscaped and you can spend hours on the grounds looking at different areas and be surprised by hidden sculptures.

Below some of the photos from our visit.

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Happy Holidays

Every year during the winter holiday season, a local farm puts up a large display of holiday lights with over 3 million lights. This year, I had an opportunity to visit the display while volunteering for “Big Brothers, Big Sisters”. Below some of my favorite photos from that trip.

Happy Holidays!

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4th of July Celebrations

4th of July, American Independence day, is a big summer holiday in the United States commemorating the declaration of Independence of the United States on July 4th, 1776. The holiday is celebrated in many different ways, but fireworks are pretty much always part of the celebrations.

This year, we had an opportunity to celebrate the holiday by visiting the “Living History Day” at Washington Crossing historic park in Pennsylvania. Washington Crossing is a very appropriate location as it is where George Washington crossed the Delaware River on the night of December 25-26, 1776 in the American revolutionary war. This led to victory at the Battle of Trenton and is considered one of the turning points in the war for independence. The “Living History Day” celebrated Independence day at this historic site by reenactments, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, the shooting of a cannon and living historians demonstrating crafts. In the evening, we had an opportunity to go to Quakertown, PA, to see the fireworks.

You can find some photos of the Washington crossing celebrations and the fireworks below:

Experience the shooting of the cannon by visiting this 360 panorama here:

You can also look at the wide version of the panorama here:

We also took a few videos of some of the activities, including the music, the shooting of the cannon and the reading of the declaration of independence. Have a look at the video to experience attending the event:

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Between Stockton and New Hope

The weather got a bit cooler and we had an opportunity to make a walk from Stockton to New Hope along the Delaware river, up on the New Jersey site and back on the Pennsylvania site, a walk of about 7.2 miles/11.6 km. It was beautiful walk and below some of the photos.

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New Orleans

We had an opportunity to visit New Orleans over the New Years break, including celebrating the 2019 New Year celebrations in the city. The weather wasn’t great with rain and grey weather every day, but regardless we enjoyed our stay at this very unique city.  New Orleans is a great place to walk around and experience the atmosphere. It also has a great music scene with live Jazz, and other styles of music, in many bars and restaurants across the city.  People are friendly and accessible regardless of race or background and there is a great tram system with historical trams across the city.

In 2018, New Orleans existed 300 years. Amongst others, the occasion was celebrated with four different fireworks across the city on December 31st.

We also visited a nearby swamp, which was another great experience. Due to the colder weather, there was less wildlife than usual, but we did manage to see an alligator, wild pigs, raccoons, snakes and birds.

As usual, we took a bunch of photos, which you can find by clicking on the album below:

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Streets of Philadelphia

The closest city to where we live is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  It is an important city in the context of American history as it is where the United States was founded. The city also served as capital before it was moved to Washington, DC. Recently, we had the opportunity to visit the historic district, society hill and Penn’s landing during the fall which provided the opportunity to take some beautiful photographs.

The historic district is where the deceleration of independence, constitution and bill of rights were negotiated and drafted between the founding states. It is also where the first US parliament met for a few years. Society Hill is next to these historic buildings and is a beautiful area with old historic streets and buildings.  Penn’s landing is a harbor area along the Delaware river with some great walking opportunities, some historic ships, museums and just a pleasant place to hang out along the water.

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Fall colors in Pennsylvania

First off, we came to the realization that we have not updated our blog for way too long. To catch you up quickly on the last couple of years: we did move from Switzerland to the US, where we live in a rural area in Pennsylvania.  As usual when moving, time ran a bit away from us and we did therefore not find the time to do much photography let alone update our blog.  We do hope to post more in the future.

A good place to start  is to share some photos of fall foliage in Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania has one of the longest and most varied fall foliage seams in the world.  Fall is a spectacular time to be here as the diversity of trees show a beautiful display of different colors. It is like an explosion of natural fireworks.  The difficulty is to catch fall at the right moment. The weather heavily impacts when and how long the fall colors are stunning.

This year we had the longest and most beautiful fall we have seen yet.  Coincidentally,  a good friend from Belgium visited just as the fall colors were at it’s peak and with beautiful weather. We therefore had a awesome experience exploring the area and capturing the colors at their peak.  Click on the album for a selection of photos, which also include some photo’s from the inside of Fonthill castle in Doylestown.

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On top of the mountain by convertible

On top of the mountain by convertible

In September, we had a chance to to go the top of Stanserhorn, a mountain in Central Switzerland not too far from where we live, on a very clear day with beautiful weather.  What makes the trip so unique, apart from the stunning views at the top of the mountain, is that you go to the top with the world’s first convertible-style cable car.

The double-decker cable car has an upper deck that is outside so that you can really enjoy the beautiful surroundings and feel the fresh mountain air as you go up the mountain.  The photo below shows you how the cable car looks like from the outside:

Stanserhorn cabrio cable car

As you can see in the photo, you can ride on top of the cable car. To give you an impression on what the experience is like, check out the interactive panorama below which I took during this trip. Click on the image for a larger version.

Stanserhorn Cabrio Panorama

Check out the interactive version below by clicking on the photo:

Taking the panorama was very challenging as the cable car moves remarkably fast and in order to make the panorama, I need to take a series of four shots in all directions. This made the stiching of the photos difficult. I am, however, very happy with the result. The photo was selected as an “editors pick” on 360 cities and received over 2000 hits to date.

Once you reach the top, you can enjoy the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. You can also go for some nice walks from short and easy ones to more challenging and difficult ones. Many people also use Stanserhorn as a base for paragliding and towards the end of the day, the cable car is full of paragliders.

This panorama was taken at a viewpoint right by the top station and shows you some of the stunning views. As always, click on the photo to see a bigger version:

Stanserhorn lookout point

Click on the interactive version if you want to have a look around in this fully immersive panorama. Have a look at the sign at the bottom for more information on the mountains you are seeing:

A very short walk away from the top station you can see a very different view of the surrounding mountains with views of Pilatus, Rigi, Titlis, lake Lucerne and lake Zug:

Stanserhorn walkway lookoutYou can explore this interactive immersive panorama here:

Of course, we took some regular photos as well. You can find a selection of the photos we took in the Album below:

Stanserhorn 2013 Album

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The cows, they did come home!

This year, we had an opportunity to visit the 10th annual Entlebucher Alpabfahrt (descent from the Alps) at the end of September 2013 in Schüpfheim, Switzerland.

Every year, farmer families take their cows into the mountains in spring and they return in the fall. Traditionally, different families came back at different dates depending on the weather and the pastures, but for the last 10 years, several families have co-ordinated when they return and the date is announced in advance so visitors can join in the festivities.

The custom of going up and down the mountains has always been filled with tradition. In the photos you can see some of the traditional clothing and decoration of the cows. The event is also very popular and crowded as you can see in the photos. And of course, there were lots of cows – about 200 in total!  Not just any cows, this is where the Emmentaller cheese comes from (“Swiss cheese” to you Americans). These are some of those very cows. Give these ladies a toast with your next ham-n-Swiss.

As usual, we took some panorama photographs. Click on the photo to have a closer look:

Alpabfahrt in Schüpfheim, Switzerland

Alpabfahrt in Schüpfheim, Switzerland

Or look at the interactive version by clicking on the image below:

A second panorama:

Cows coming home in Schüpfheim, Switzerland

Cows coming home in Schüpfheim, Switzerland

Click on the image below to interact with the panorama:

The sound of the cows coming by is very loud due to the large cowbells they have around their necks. Have a look at the video below to get an impression about the sound:

At the event, we also saw a Jodling choir performance on street. Jodling is a specific type of singing that is typical for the Swiss and Austrian mountains. You can see a brief video of the choir singing here:

Of course, we also took tons of photos! Click on the link below to have a look at some selected photos from the day.

Alpabfahrt Album

Alpabfahrt Album

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