Whatever happened to Julian McCormick?
By Kristina Rowley
"I know now that life is really too short to be wasting time but I still do it," said Julian McCormick jokingly. "I still have my whole life ahead of me." Many students, staff, and faculty at Bowie State University remember McCormick as a student that shockingly and suddenly went missing and with little detail was found a week later. However there is much more about Julian and his inspiring story that everyone will do well to contemplate and learn from.
McCormick just graduated from Laurel High School and just got a new car. Although he didn't want to start school right after graduation, he really wanted to participate in the Symphony of Soul Marching band so he took a few classes. Even though he wasn't fully enrolled at BSU, he was working and planned to start school full time in the spring.
On Aug. 1, 2007, McCormick was working at a Famous Dave's barbecue restaurant until 11 p.m. and then went with his girlfriend to see the film "Balls of Fury." After the movie McCormick opted to sleep in his car in the parking lot of the Martin Luther King Jr. Communications Art Center to ensure that he would make it to band practice, which would be early the next morning.
After band practice McCormick ate breakfast and then went on his way to visit his girlfriend in College Park, he took Powder Mill Road as usual. McCormick said he remembers turning on to Powder Mill Road, and the next thing he knew he was upside down in his car. The airbags were deployed and he couldn't really tell what was going on around him. He tried to unbuckle his seatbelt but it was stuck.
McCormick said that a week before he purchased a knife while purchasing pepper spray for his girlfriend and he was glad that he had it to cut the seatbelt off of him. Next he tried to open the door but couldn't because the door was busted in. In order to get out, he had to climb through the back of the car. Once McCormick was out he realized that he was under the bridge on Powder Mill Road.
McCormick tried to stand, yell, and even shake a bush to gain someone's attention from the road above, but was not able to do so. He crawled from the car and laid out on a rock. He realized that he was dying of thirst so he used his shoe to dip into the creek and drink water. After drinking he fell asleep. When he woke up he crawled through the creek, as he crawled he kept drinking water as well as grabbing fish to eat.
When McCormick was able to crawl up the bank and push through a mesh fence he lay on the side of the road and tried to signal for help. A woman, Leigh Ann Hess, 30, found him on the side of the road and he was able to tell her his name and address. McCormick didn't realize how long he had been missing until Hess told him he had been missing for a week.
McCormick was taken to an intensive care unit for burn victims where he was told that he was dehydrated, malnourished, had minor scrapes and bruises, but that he would be fine and would be able to leave the hospital soon. However, later doctors discovered that because he had been hanging upside down unconscious in his car for five days, the tissue in his legs was dying and could develop gangrene.
This marked the beginning of many long and arduous surgeries for McCormick, he said that he believes he went through somewhere between 13 to15 surgeries. Dec. 15, 2007, was the date of McCormick's last surgery, about three months after the first.
McCormick said that everyday before surgery was terrible because he was not allowed to eat before them and he had to wait for long periods of time. In between surgeries McCormick had to endure tissue restorative and cleaning procedures even as drastic as having live sterile maggots eat the dead tissue out of his body.
On Jan.11, 2008, McCormick was finally released from the hospital and was able to return home. Rehab lasted until the start of school this semester and consisted of basic strengthening techniques. What is unique about McCormick's injuries is that they were done to his muscle tissue like burn victims and not his bones like most accident victims, so he was able to strengthen his muscles and walk again.
McCormick said his feeling about his experience is that it happened, he went through it, and all he did was not die; he did what anybody else would do. He thinks everyday about what he had to go through. While he was in the creek fighting for his life, he said that it felt like he was watching himself in a movie and not exactly living it. Certain things like driving over the bridge on Powder Mill Road. give him a reality check and remind him that his experience actually happened to him.
When asked how he feels about the way his time missing was handled by law enforcement, McCormick replied that he still feels upset with Prince George's County Police. The police said they did an air search after dark when they wouldn't be able to see clearly. McCormick added that everyone knew that he was going to College Park and that he always takes Powder Mill Road to College Park because it is en route to his house.
McCormick said police did not check the sides of Powder Mill Road or the bridge extensively because they would have been able to see him. There was no footage of him leaving in his car, so the police were not sure that he actually left. When the police questioned his family, McCormick said, they allegedly asked suggestively racially targeted questions such as: "Was McCormick involved in gang violence?" or "Was he involved in any illegal activities?" McCormick asserted that he feels that police didn't make him a high-priority case and that's why he was missing for so long and had to save himself.
On a positive note, McCormick feels that the media did an excellent job with reporting his situation. People across the country knew that he was missing because it was televised. Friends of McCormick also played an integral role in the publicity of his search through fliers placed in various areas on campus at Bowie State University and University of Maryland College Park.
This is the first interview that McCormick has agreed to conduct since the accident. McCormick said that representatives from "The Maury Show," the "Dr. Phil" show, and various other news stations tried to contact him for interviews but he didn't respond. McCormick smiled when he related that he received cards and gift baskets from news programs like "Good Morning America" and elementary schools and he is very grateful.
McCormick said that what he learned from this experience is that "God loves him and he doesn't know why he is still here when people like [deceased Bowie State students] Jamar and Antione are not." McCormick has developed a stronger bond and love for God and his children. McCormick's advice to everyone: Never drive when tired and always wear seatbelts.