Joe Jaskolka knows all too well about an ugly urban tradition on New Year's Eve.
He caught a stray bullet in the head that very night almost 20 years ago, when someone fired their gun off in the air to celebrate the coming year. What the gunman forgot was Newton's laws of physics – that what goes up must come down.
Jaskolka, now confined to a wheelchair, has undergone 33 brain surgeries since he was a teenager totaling more than $15 million.
"It's like a walk in the park, which is pretty sick if you think about it. I don't want anyone to go through what I had to go through," he said today during a pre-New Year's Eve press briefing with Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.
Jaskolka and his cousin were running around their neighborhood just before midnight on Jan. 31, 1998 when a bullet struck him in the head at 2nd and Fernon streets in South Philly.
"Anything to try and save a life, I'm all for it. Anything to stop the nonsense, that's what I'm all about. This deadly tradition needs to stop all around the world," he said.
Ramsey and District Attorney Seth Williams sent a reminder to the public this morning that firing guns off to celebrate is no way to ring in the new year.
"We have zero tolerance for this," said Williams.
"Leave your guns at home under lock and key and don't go out firing guns into the midnight sky."
Ramsey said city police have had a good year in terms of overall crime-fighting, but people should be mindful of the inherent dangers of using firearms in that way.
Have a happy and safe New Year, everyone!