Service of Crowds II

November 8th, 2021

Categories: Crowds, Pandemic, Panic, Uncategorized

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I am crowd averse as I’ve written previously, most recently about the impact of the pandemic on Manhattan that eliminated swarms of citizens who normally congregate at certain times and places. I was caught in a mass of people all trying to exit a courtyard at once through a narrow opening in a gate when I was 10. I had no control over the direction I wanted to go or whether I could stick near my mother and I didn’t like that feeling.

That’s why I’m amazed that people scramble to fill stadiums that hold over a hundred thousand fans. Madison Square Garden has almost 20,000 seats which seems like a lot. Friends flock there to hear their favorite singers, pay exorbitant prices and consider themselves lucky to snag tickets.

It’s remarkable that the dreadful event, that happened in Houston last Friday at the sold-out Astroworld music festival–50,000 people attended–hasn’t happened more often.


Image by Vishnu R from Pixabay

This venue holds 200,000+ reported J. David Goodman and Maria Jimenez Moya in The New York Times

They wrote: “The most common cause of injury and death in crowds is compressive asphyxia, when people are pushed against one another so tightly that their airways become constricted, said Steve Adelman, a lawyer and the vice president of the Event Safety Alliance, an advocacy group. This happens most often during a ‘crowd crush,’ when the audience is packed together so tightly that people cannot move, but it can also occur during a stampede.”

They added that “Houston police chief, Troy Finner, said that officials worried that cutting off the concert could make the situation worse. ‘You cannot just close when you got 50,000 and over 50,000 individuals,’ he said. ‘We have to worry about rioting, riots, when you have a group that’s that young.’”

Eight died in the third year of this event, from ages 14 to 17.

According to the Associated Press, as reported in usatoday.com, “‘The crowd began to compress towards the front of the stage, and that caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries,’ the [Houston] fire chief [Samuel Peña] said. ‘People began to fall out, become unconscious, and it created additional panic.'”

“The deadly surge was the most deaths at a U.S. concert since the 2003 Station nightclub fire that killed 100 people in Rhode Island.

“Eleven people died and about two dozen were injured in 1979 at a concert for The Who as thousands of fans tried to get into Cincinnati’s riverfront coliseum.”

I’ve happily attended concerts and performances in Carnegie Hall, New York City Opera and Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera and concerts at the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College as well as at sold-out performances in theaters here and abroad. Security checked handbags for bombs and firearms after 9/11 but I didn’t stress about the possibility of an explosion. Issues of Covid-19 aside, am I naive to be unconcerned in these places?

Does attending a crowded venue–even a place of worship with a modest capacity–give you pause? Are some seats– stadiums and concert halls–safer than others? Have you been in a crowd that worried you?


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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5 Responses to “Service of Crowds II”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    A very frightening topic, for some of us.

    I guess the youngsters haven’t experienced the thrill of a non-Covid big gathering, so for them it’s cool.

    Having been to Woodstock and the Fillmore East and other venues like Madison Square Garden‘s smaller room once called the felt forum…. That was plenty for me…

    Now with Covid, I believe much has changed in the culture across the globe!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    When I was a late teen I was in Argentina and my parents urged me not to go to a soccer match because the fans often went nuts and it wasn’t a safe place to be. Some of our stadiums are gigantic and thank goodness, as ardent as our fans can be, we’ve not experienced over the top fisticuffs here that I know of.

    Woodstock. Whooo hoooo!

  3. lucrezia Said:

    Someone may be insulted, but it becomes increasingly clear that humanity must have sheep, or perhaps sardines in its ancestry. If not, why the apparent addiction to flocking, despite the tragic outcomes which often follow? The horrors of Astroworld will fade, with the promise of an even more grizzly event in line to take its place. Disdain of mobs in learned editorials won’t work. Hero/star/celebrity worship, which has taken numerous forms over the centuries, isn’t going away. If averse to risking lives for a peek at the rich & famous, stay home. You will live to tell the tale.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Years ago I’d go to the theater on New Years Eve and race to a party afterwards. I couldn’t get out of the Times Square area and into a subway fast enough. I never was tempted to be in those crowds. I was an old soul when young though I remember going to hear then popular singers such as Peter Paul and Mary. I don’t remember huge venues and crowds.

  5. Nancie Steinberg Said:

    Nancie on Facebook: I hate big crowds and try to avoid. Such a senseless tragedy.

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