As most people are aware at this point, nine people have died as a result of a crowd surge at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival. The news alone was tragic, and the videos coming from the event are horrible. It was extremely difficult to watch the video of paramedics performing CPR on unconscious teenagers, and others of young people begging Travis to stop the concert. The story seems to have been buried amongst the waves of what has been a particularly heavy national news week. We cannot just move on though, because for those of us who experience these types of events, you can never forget the fear. 

In 2018, I got caught in a large crowd panic at the Global Citizens music festival. Between artists’ sets, my friends and I had sat down to hydrate and relax, when a sudden frenzy set off in the crowd. All we knew was what felt like 30,000 people seemed to be running right in our direction. People were screaming, and we were lost. I grabbed my friend’s hand so we wouldn’t get separated as we ran for our lives. A man told us there was somebody shooting at the crowd. I called my mom while we ran to tell her I was afraid. We thought we were really running to save ourselves. 

It turned out there was never a gunman, no shots fired. The official story was that a metal police barrier fell and made a loud noise that some people thought was gunfire. I was lucky enough to not get hurt, but it was traumatizing. For months I had nightmares about being stuck in a crowd like that and being shot. Sitting in Central Park happy, and suddenly being shot by a concert goer. 

My story does end well, though; I went home that night and was physically fine. I even went back to a much better organized Global Citizens the next year, with heavy security and much stronger barriers with crowd breaks large enough for an ambulance to drive through. I got to have fun at that next concert, and I felt safe. We have already learned how dangerous unmonitored crowds of tens of thousands of people are. Why did Astroworld force us to learn this again? Why did nine young people have to die from a preventable surge? Why were there so few water stations, so few crowd breaks? 

The answer is naivety, and an unwillingness to recognize that tragedy can happen even when it’s been seen before. The potential of a crazy concert that’s so packed people can barely breathe attracts some people, but it killed nine and hurt so many more. It’s time to acknowledge reality — it is simply not worth it financially or experientially to pack a venue so tightly we risk our lives. Even if it goes fine 99 out of 100 times. We are not immortal, and things can always go wrong.

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