Thank You Philadelphia


Some consider Philadelphia to be the birthplace of independence. When outsiders hear “Philadelphia,” they may think of Betsy Ross, Ben Franklin or the Liberty Bell. Imagining the star-spangled banner waving above Independence Hall in center city, tourists cannot help but envision Philadelphia as this promised land of freedom, cheese steaks and water ice.

I used to be one of these naive Americans who visited Philadelphia only on class trips, when the price of visiting New York was too high. We’d take tours and play on the cobblestone streets of Olde City, giggling and planning our lives in this beautiful city.  When I received my acceptance letter to Temple University in January of 2006, I thought I would be spending the next four years in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Until reality hit.

Temple, which is situated just minutes from the cobblestone and nostalgia associated with Olde City, is also just seconds from project housing and poverty-ridden street corners. I was  finally exposed to the shootings and drug abuse that I had only heard about on the six o’clock news while sitting comfortably in my middle class home and thinking, “That doesn’t actually happen. Dramatization.”

I was asked daily for spare change and I was naive enough to believe the money would be used for food. That was until I saw a man who I had given change to earlier in the day hop into a BMW and drive off. Needless to say, my generosity was limited from that point on. I became street smart, constantly keeping my eyes open but never letting someone catch my gaze. I would walk with my headphones on but keeping the volume low enough so I could hear a threat coming. I became…Philly-fied.

Last night, I attended the 4th of July celebration held at the famous Philadelphia Museum of Art. We enjoyed our evening and after the fireworks display, the crowd made a mad dash for the subway. We decided to sit and wait for the crowd to pass. While waiting, we saw a friend and struck up a conversation. Suddenly, the entire crowd ran toward us and our friend sprinted in the opposite direction. As the crowd rushed past us, we saw a brawl breaking out between two teenage Philadelphians. One grabbed a glass beer bottle off of the Ben Franklin Parkway and that was all I needed to see. As someone who has been Philly-fied, I know when a small situation is capable of progressing into a news-worthy special report. I grabbed my friend who is new to the area (remembering back to my first year in Philadelphia) and we ran to a safe distance. Although the fight was broken up, it was clear to me that my ability to assess a dangerous situation quickly can be explained only by my experience in the City of Brotherly “Love.”

Sirens, gun shots and street brawls may have fazed me in 2006, but after four years, I am officially a city girl. And despite the fracas on the 4th of July, the fireworks were absolutely stunning.

Thank you, Philadelphia, for keeping me on my toes.

A Love/Hate Relationship

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About cristinmcgrath

Cristin is a consumer engagement consultant who is currently exploring new opportunities within social media strategy and digital marketing. With experiences ranging from traditional media relations and public affairs to interactive and digital marketing with a specialization in emerging media, she is a versatile marketing professional.

8 thoughts on “Thank You Philadelphia

  1. Ha, love this! Change the location to Atlanta and you’ve got my life. I started college at Georgia State University when the dorms were four MARTA train stations from the campus. Every day I took *gasp* public transportation and passed *gasp again* homeless people (and not-so-homeless beggars). And I definitely did the iPod on low volume thing too!

    I think everybody should live in a city once… it definitely gives you a skill set you’d otherwise never obtain!

  2. That is city living for you. It really could be worse, thankfully for you it isnt. Think Brooklyn, NY circa 1986 to 2000. I saw everything you would think only happens on “The Wire” all the while knowing the rest of the world only thought of NYC as the shining capitol of the world. I came to Philly prepared for it all, but I wouldn’t trade the city experience for anything. I feel like a real human being who hasn’t been sheltered from reality. You’ve been broken in Cristin, now you’re stronger. =)

    • Absolutely! I wouldn’t trade my N. Philly experiences for anything. I could move anywhere and be fine (except Detroit, maybe). : )

  3. Ha this sounded like Birmingham, AL. Great college campus and atmosphere. Too bad it has the blemish of once ranking above Compton in terms of the most violent city (I believe we were #6?)
    Stay safe!

    • Hah! Thanks! Luckily, I am getting out of North Philadelphia and moving toward the Drexel/UPenn area 😀

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