Pooja Pasupula

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Stadium chaos: photo editor shares experience of shooting

I remember I woke up just like any other day. I was running late to my Advanced Newswriting class and I was stressed out because I had to print out a bunch of papers that were due to be handed in. I walked briskly to my workplace and was tapping my foot impatiently as inkspot took its time to load the print jobs. I remember showing up eight minutes late to class in Denny and rolling my eyes at my professor for making the point to count me down as a tardy. We had a lecture on environmental journalism and I was happy because my professor let the class out 20 minutes early, a rarity in the whole semester. I then headed back to work at the UCAE where I tutor and breezed through three appointments. I remember chirping, “Good luck on your finals! I hope you do well!” to my returner tutees I had been teaching all semester and thinking, “Wow, it’s really the end of the semester. Spring 2019. We’re really done. Four years of college, just like that. Soon I’ll take my finals and the class I came here with four years ago will be gone. Soon the very thing that’s shaped my identity for the past four years will fade and I will move onto something else.” Little did I know how true that statement would be and how rapidly our campus was about to change in the next few hours.

Once work was done, I headed down to the silver route stop by the Union with a camera strapped around my hip. The LDOC concert was about to take place in an hour and I had gotten approved to photograph it for the paper. I was so excited. I had photographed many concerts before at the venues around Charlotte, but this was going to be my first one at the university, and the first LDOC concert in general in my time here. Every other university in North Carolina had incredible artists come out for their last days, so I was eager to finally have one come out to ours and to experience something I hadn’t before.

I remember waiting forever in the heat for the bus to come and wondering what was taking so long. There were throngs of students around me dressed up for the concert also waiting. The bus came, we got on, and off we went. We got to the stadium, I met with the CAB coordinator to get my backstage photo pass, and she gave me the run-down of where I’d be able to stand and told me how it was going to be about two hours before the first opener came on. I sat down on the bleachers in the empty stadium (the doors hadn’t opened yet for the public to come in) and looked down on the barren field. There was nothing but a few yellow-shirted event staff dotting the grass and a black stage with an opener band doing soundcheck. Heat beat down on me. It was a sunny day. Ten minutes had passed before I started debating whether I should leave and head to the Union or the library and see my friends to pass the hour.

Photo By: Pooja Pasupula

I was scrolling on my phone when I got the notification. “Guys there’s a shooter in Kennedy. People are running out of the library.”

I remember being so confused. “What?” I thought. “A shooter? Oh, they must mean like a fight, like what happens at the off-campus apartments all the time. It’s probably harmless. Huh, weird. Kennedy. I wonder why there.”

I brushed it off. Then the notifications kept flooding. “Guys there’s people running. We’re running right now. Please get inside.”

I was still confused. And in denial. “Huh?” I thought. “Is this like…an active thing? Is this not just a one-and-done fight? Surely the police must have stopped it by now…this is UNC Charlotte. That stuff can’t exacerbate here, there’s no way.”

More notifications. “Guys I’m literally running back to my apartment right now. Where are all of you? Go home right now.”

At this point, I was like, “Wait, what is going on? Is this a mass shooting?” and I shook my head. Cynicism then filled me. “It was only a matter of time before it happened here. I’m not even surprised.” I think it made me feel better to pretend like it wasn’t going to phase me.

I looked down at the field again. Things were continuing on like normal. No one seemed to bat an eye or even know anything was happening. I remember realizing the sirens I had been hearing in the distance for the past few minutes weren’t just the typical cops always pulling someone over for something in University City. They were here for a shooting. I looked up and saw multiple helicopters buzzing around. “Should we be doing something?” I thought. A few of the staff looked at each other but no one did anything. “I guess we’re safe here. Kennedy is so far. What shooter is going to run all the way to engineering side? Kind of a shame, I would have liked to experience the chaos. Maybe it would feel like a superhero movie.” Oh naïve, blithely stupid, Pooja. Somebody should have punched me in the face.

Another notification. “Guys I don’t know what to do, I’m trying to get in the tennis courts but they’re locked. I’m just running home.”

“Is this man dumb?” I thought. “Jeffrey, just walk into a building don’t be out in the open. Why are you running all the way to your apartment?” I texted back.

That was when the crowd broke in. Screams flew everywhere from atop me. “RUN! RUN!!!!!”

It all happened so fast. My eyes widened and panic filled my chest. “I need to get out of here.” I thought. I grabbed my camera and sprinted up the bleachers. I was still confused. “What’s happening?” I asked someone running by.

“There’s a shooter! He’s coming, he’s here!”

My stomach dropped. “He’s at the stadium.” My mind flashed. “This is happening right now.”

I did the only thing I knew to do. I sprinted towards the engineering buildings faster than anytime I had run before in my life. I got to the end of the stadium and then I stopped dead in my tracks. My heart sank as I looked up at Grigg Hall. “The engineering buildings are going to be locked,” I realized. “I can’t hide in them.”

I looked around for what to do. People were still running everywhere. Mass panic had erupted. “Oh my god,” I thought. My entire body was shaking. “He could come out at any moment. I could get shot while running. I might die right now. This might be it. I have to be okay with this. I don’t have much time left. I need to accept that this is where I die.”

I saw the Judy Rose Center. “That has to be unlocked.” I thought. I just needed to get inside. I ran down the bleachers again. I wasn’t thinking words at this point. All I could feel was mass hysteria churning in my stomach.

I got down to the field. Everyone was congregating and hiding below the bleachers.

I remember being frozen standing there. No shooter to be heard. I looked down at the students sitting around me. I was frozen, but everyone around me was in hysterics. Tears streamed down everyone’s faces. People were calling their parents. People were breaking down, freaking out.

“Wow, people are really calling their parents?” I thought. I didn’t even think to do that. All I could focus on was survival. “Should I be calling someone?” I thought. “My mom? My dad? My ex? My other ex? Who do I want to call in my final minutes? Who have I loved?”

All I could think was that it was useless. Calling someone wasn’t going to protect me from being killed. I needed to focus on getting all of us out.

At this point, I was beginning to realize that everyone else had completely broken down and no one was thinking to get in a safer place. We were just sitting ducks out there, waiting to be shot at. I looked at the doors and wondered why no one was going in there.

“Why aren’t we going inside?” I demanded an event staffer. No one else was asking. I remember thinking, “Am I the only one thinking logically right now? I’m the only one not breaking down. It’s going to have to be up to me to step up and get us out of here.”

“The doors are locked,” said the staffer. “We’re not allowed in.”

I just stared at everyone around me. Shock and denial wrapped my thoughts as my body shook and absorbed the effects of the real danger we were in.

Notifications came again. Friends were telling me there’s a shooter at the stadium too and I need to get out. I stood there shuddering.

“NINER ALERT” popped up on my screen in glaring letters. “Run, hide, fight.”

“Is this some kind of sick joke?” I thought. I scoffed at the university. What the hell was that supposed to do for us?

It had only been ten minutes since the initial shooting, but it felt like it had been hours.

Time slowly swept by as the clock ticked and there was still no shooter in sight. The chaos calmed down but none of the emotions did. We sat there in fear for what felt like eons. Just waiting to hear gunshots or for someone to run in. Rumors flew around that there were multiple shooters and that it was a mass attack. That someone was coming for the concert. Notifications from the university saying we’re still under lockdown but no confirmation that any shooter had been apprehended.

Eventually, as the time that seemed never-ending continued to pass, CAB announced there was no threat to the stadium and let people out. I was still shaking. At this point, things were calmer but every moment seemed like it could turn and we would be back to running again.

Photo By: Pooja Pasupula
Photo By: Pooja Pasupula

The CAB staff offered me a ride back and walked me through the Judy Rose Center. Everyone asked if I was okay. I was just staring aimlessly, not even registering anything around me. I was in shock. No one really knew where to go, what car to take. Was it safe outside? We were on an aimless path of not knowing what to do. Eventually, I got into a van. We tried to drive in but the police wouldn’t let us through campus. Everything was still on lockdown. There was still a threat of danger.

Eventually, the same CAB coordinator took me out of the van and we both walked to the Starbucks across the street. I waited there in a coffee shop that seemed so untouched by what had just happened. The juxtaposition stood so stark to me. People were whispering, but still working on their laptops. It was clearly not a normal day, but they seemed so unphased. And safe. And ignorant. They were just going about their lives like normal, which I suppose was a good thing, but in the moment I just wanted to scream, “Are you all not worried? Do you not realize what just happened? You should be running for safety right now. You should be talking about this right now.”

Soon enough my friend had picked me up and we took care of a freshman from a residence hall who couldn’t get back into their dorm until he was allowed back in. We then sat around his apartment leasing office for hours, listening as the helicopters flew over everywhere and the lockdown notifications from the university still kept pouring in. No one still really knew any details about what shooters were there and what weren’t. We couldn’t stop talking about how unreal everything felt. It was at this point that I had heard the death and injury count and started texting my friends asking if they were okay. I remember wondering if I was a shitty person for not breaking down or contacting people as quick as everyone else had. Eventually, I got dropped off at my apartment and I just laid in bed trying to process all of it. None of it made any sense. I didn’t know how to explain it to myself, let alone someone else. I just stared at the wall. The threat had ended, but the trauma had permanently sunk into my head.

PREVIEW: Epicenter Music Festival

Epicenter, a music festival centered around heavy metal and hard rock, comes to Rockingham, NC for its’ inaugural run.

The festival will kick-off Friday, May 10th at the heart of the Mid-Atlantic region, the newly created Rockingham Festival GroundsRock City Campgrounds, and will last until Sunday, May 12th. Attendees can expect a large variety of acts and multiple specialty curated beverages, while campers can additionally expect access to showers, portable restrooms, food and drink vendors, charging stations, information and medical services, as well as a Thursday night pre-show party.

Rockingham Village at Epicenter will be open for extended hours to allow fans to eat, drink, shop and see performing artists before and after the main event. Featured vendors will include festival merchandise, artist merchandise, lockers for rent, lifestyle shopping booths, a full General Store, coffee shop, craft beer at Headbangers Beer Bar, Caduceus wine bar, breakfast vendors for campers, as well as late night food served after the main venue closes. The Village will also have a stage featuring cover bands and Hellzapoppin Circus SideShow performances throughout the weekend.

Here’s 5 can’t-miss acts for Epicenter Music Festival 2019:

Bring Me The Horizon: A long-time favorite band of many metalheads alike, their music screams “Metalcore” and could very well be one of the defining bands of the genre. Their latest album “Amo” came out late in January and features a number of hits we hope to hear at the festival. Some of our favorites were “in the dark,” “medicine” and “i apologize if you feel something.”

Korn: A nu metal band hailing from Bakersfield, California. Their latest album rips through our heart as it tackles the tough, familiar emotions of love and hate that come from a broken life. Some of our favorite songs were “A Different World” and “Everything Falls Apart.”

Starset: This rock band has been kickin’ it since 2013, but isn’t looking to quit anytime soon. Their latest album “Vessels” came out in 2017 and features a lot of heartfelt, fiery bangers focusing on love and longing. One of our all-time favorite songs from them that we’re hoping to see live at the festival is “Die For You.”

Killswitch Engage: This primarily metalcore band is loved by listeners spanning from all different realms of the music industry as they’ve made songs that have hit every market. They’ve been making music since 1999 and have an impressive and expansive repertoire under their belt. One of our favorite songs from them is “My Curse.”

Fever333: A rapcore band stemming from Inglewood, California, they broke into the rock scene just two years ago in 2017. Their latest album “STRENGTH IN NUMBB333RS” was released this past January. We’re pumped to see if we’ll be the first listeners of it performed live and if it lives up to their well-known reputation for excellence.

Image from Danny Wimmer Presents

A Sponge’s Impact: Reflecting on ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’

Millennial humor is a strange thing; just take a look at the most recent memes and you will quickly see how absurd, chaotic and seemingly random our sense of humor is. Why is that? The Nickelodeon animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants” has to play some role in the formation of who we are as a generation. A cartoon based around a talking sea sponge who lives in a pineapple and works as a fry cook is a wild concept for a television series, but the jokes that come from the individual episodes shine a light on where our humor comes from. Even as adults, the millennial generation just can’t seem to move past this iconic series as reaction images and memes from the show seem to pop up constantly on our social media timelines. There are also plenty of quotes that find themselves in conversation and in social media bios.

Following the death of “SpongeBob” creator Stephen Hillenburg on Nov. 26, the Internet created countless tributes and many shared how they were personally impacted by the series and its band of lovable characters. To pay tribute to Hillenburg and the wonderful world he created and its timeless legacy, four Niner Times editors have selected their favorite episodes to share just what this sea sponge means to them.

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom Media Networks.

“Pizza Delivery”

Adulthood is finally realizing that not only is Squidward justified in his anger, but that you may also be Squidward yourself. There’s nothing more relaxing to me than going home after a long day of school and work, but it isn’t always that simple. In this classic episode, SpongeBob and Squidward are tasked with delivering a pizza, which Mr. Krabs has suddenly decided to start selling as a means to make more money. Being that this is “SpongeBob SquarePants,” Squidward is relentlessly tortured throughout the episode during what should have been a simple delivery by the two losing their boat and ending up in an undersea tornado. Between the “Krusty Krab Pizza” song that SpongeBob sings and Squidward’s desperation to eat said pizza after becoming lost, there are so many hilarious moments and jokes packed into this episode. The standout line and my personal favorite quote comes as they finally reach the customer’s house and realize they have forgotten one important part of his order: “How am I supposed to eat this pizza without my drink?!” This just adds to the absurdity of the episode and the series as a whole. And who could forget the “big, beautiful, old rock” that the “pioneers used to ride for miles?”

Jeffrey Kopp, Editor-in-Chief

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom Media Networks.

“Rock Bottom”

The greatest SpongeBob episodes are nonsensical, clever, and, yes, social commentaries. The astutely named “Rock Bottom” from the first season meets all of these requirements in the weirdest way. It starts when Patrick and SpongeBob take the wrong bus on the way home and end up in Rock Bottom, the abyssal zone of the ocean. They are coming from Glove World…yep, a glove-themed amusement park. Patrick immediately catches the next bus home, leaving SpongeBob to fend for himself in the dark, strange area. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to get on the bus, SpongeBob goes to the bus station where he waits for hours, only to be told the next bus won’t arrive until the morning. He goes back outside and meets a frightening anglerfish who appears to only communicate through spitting noises. SpongeBob tries to speak with him, but the anglerfish can’t understand his “accent” — speaking without spitting. SpongeBob grows increasingly frustrated and wary of the fish, but in the end, he is the one to retrieve SpongeBob’s balloon from Glove World, which ultimately helps him float home.

The best part of this episode is the concept of Glove World, made even funnier because it takes no real role in the plot. Patrick and Spongebob could have been coming from anywhere — the store, a friend’s house, etcetera. Why include this random aspect of the episode? Perhaps the obsession with anything glove-shaped is a commentary on consumerism, just as the bus station could be a criticism of bureaucracy or the interaction with the spitting anglerfish an analogy to xenophobia. Or perhaps it is just SpongeBob, and we need not take the talking sea sponge and starfish that wear clothes and go to a beach in the ocean at anything other than face value.

-Megan Bird, News Editor

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom Media Networks.

“Club SpongeBob”

Almost every episode from the first three seasons of SpongeBob are iconic, classic pieces of cinematic history. And while I believe they, as a whole, form one of the many foundational chains in the block of what established our generation’s sense of humor, a personal favorite episode of mine would have to be the “Club SpongeBob.” This episode is among one of my top ranks because it is utterly ridiculous. It also features some of the most iconic jokes of the entire series. The flawed, absurd and ludicrous logic presented in it makes absolutely no sense and it sets the stage for a downright comical experience. Why do SpongeBob and Patrick spend an entirety of three days stuck in “Club SpongeBob” without asking for help? Why do they listen to a “Magic Conch Shell” toy, and why do they literally nothing to get out of the forest, just because it told them to? How does that plan even work? How does there just so happen to be a plane overhead that releases food magically into a perfect picnic around them? Just when you think the episode has finally reached its climax with a park ranger coming in to save them and no more idiocy can be had, said ranger also ends up being a follower of the Magic Conch and has brought along his own. Squidward seems to be the only sane voice of reason in this episode, and watching him get driven to the brink of insanity by SpongeBob and Patrick’s shrewd logic actually working for their benefit is what really cranks up the humor in this episode.

I felt like I spiritually related to Squidward throughout this entire episode, from the start when he gets offended by SpongeBob and Patrick not letting him into their club to the end when he gets riled up trying to understand how everyone except for him is getting good favors from this “all-knowing shell.” The script is incredible; the jokes are incredible; everything about this episode is just incredible. Sometimes I too find myself wanting to ask the Magic Conch for advice on my life.

-Pooja Pasupula, Photo Coordinator

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom Media Networks.

“Band Geeks”

Long before I even started marching band in high school, “Band Geeks” stood as my favorite episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” It has humor all throughout, with standout moments like Patrick’s inquiry on whether mayonnaise was classified as an instrument, which alone may be the series’ most iconic line. I think what pushes it to the top, though, is the spotlight on Squidward, and not just that, but the fact that the main gang of characters rally behind him, resulting in the episode ending in his favor (which I think is the only time that ever happens for him in the entire series). The episode also makes use of pretty much all of the major characters as well as side ones like Plankton, Mrs. Puff, Pearl and even Larry the Lobster. Watching the group fail miserably at trying to be musicians is hilarious throughout, though when they come together at the end, it results in one of the greatest moments in television history. The performance of “Sweet Victory” (David Glen Eisley) is just so out of left field and amazing that it remains just as iconic to this day. Overall, this episode excels at incorporating the whole cast, solid band humor, the greatest halftime performance of all-time, and the sweet satisfaction of Squidward’s rare success being rubbed in Squilliam Fancyson’s face.

-Noah Howell, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

Photos: Daughtry on the Cage to Rattle Tour 2018


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

Photos: Haven49’s continuing construction delays move-in


Photos taken Sept. 26 by Pooja Pasupula.

The opening of Haven49 was delayed a fifth time to Oct. 6. Owner Jay Williams told residents in an email, “…we now believe it is potentially unlikely that we will receive our Certificate of Occupancy before Sept. 29.” However, a construction worker on the project who wishes to remain anonymous told Niner Times the move-in date will be Oct. 13 at the earliest. The same worker attributed the delays to “shit management on behalf of Spire,” the construction company assigned to the project. According to the Victims of Haven49 Facebook page, the complex has already booked residents’ hotel rooms through Oct. 6 before the complex was delayed for a fifth time. The students currently living in Holiday Inn, Springhill Suites and Courtyard Marriott have to be relocated to different hotels due to lack of reserved rooms in anticipation of the NASCAR race this weekend.

The 887-bed, 332-unit, mid-rise apartment complex intended to house UNC Charlotte students. It is owned and developed by Haven Campus Communities and is the newest off-campus housing addition to the University community. The fall launch of Haven49 was widely anticipated and was to provide residents with a fitness center, tanning room, “resort-style” pool and cabanas.

Photos: Miguel The Ascention Tour 2018


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

Photos: Jason Aldean High Noon Neon Tour


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

Photos: 3OH!3 at the last Vans Warped Tour


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

Photos: Mayday Parade at the last Vans Warped Tour


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

Photos: Tonight Alive at the last Vans Warped Tour


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

Photos: Falling In Reverse at the last Vans Warped Tour


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

Photos: Chelsea Grin at the last Vans Warped Tour


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

Photos: The Maine at the last Vans Warped Tour


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

Photos: August Burns Red at the last Vans Warped Tour


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.