*TRIGGER WARNING: Disturbing images, traumatic content*
It's 4:02 a.m., and I can't sleep.
I've spent the past seven hours glued to my phone, alternating between TikTok, Twitter, CNN, and Instagram. My social media feeds are all filled with the same content: Travis Scott's Astroworld Festival, where eight people are confirmed to have died and over 300 were injured on Friday evening.
I wasn't there. But I am haunted by these images. Tonight, I watched videos of terrified concertgoers being mercilessly crushed under the weight of 50,000 people. I can't erase from my mind the limp bodies being carried out on stretchers, the frantic voices desperately pleading to be rescued, the fruitless efforts of emergency responders to breathe life back into those who were gone. I've wept for them, shocked at the emotion that this event has evoked within me.
One TikToker (@heartthrobert) summed up a quote from a survivor of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in England, who said that the scariest thing about crowd crushes is that "you're standing up, and you're outside, and you can see the air and see the daylight. And your mouth isn't covered, but you just can't breathe."
These words sent chills down my spine. How terrifying that must be, to watch the world go on around you as you scream into the void to be rescued. To be in a public place, out in the open air, and to go unheard or ignored as you beg and plead for help.
Astroworld survivors tell a common story. Nearly all have described this experience as a literal hell; not just as a hellish experience, but as hell itself. And they all summarize the concert's vibe in the same single word: demonic. I find it striking that so many have used this term to describe the atmosphere, the music, and Scott himself.
Many have criticized Scott for his failure to respond to the crisis, which was already being described as a "mass casualty event" before he even finished his set. You read that right. Even after it was confirmed that multiple people had died, Scott continued to perform for 37 minutes, finishing his entire set as if thousands of his fans weren't screaming up at him for help.
Of course, theories are running rampant about Scott's connections to the "Illuminati." Some are convinced that these deaths were a "blood sacrifice" paid by Scott in exchange for his fame and fortune. I'm not into conspiracies, but there is something utterly chilling about this event. I've heard accounts of mass shootings that didn't leave me this disturbed.
I'd have more sympathy for Travis Scott if he didn't have a history of inciting violence at his shows. Watch this video from 2015 and tell me you aren't disgusted. He did this over a shoe.
And he's been arrested in the past for starting riots and encouraging reckless behavior from his fans. This was a disaster just waiting to happen. His career should have been ended a long time ago. Hopefully it won't recover from this.
My heart aches for the young people who survived this nightmare and for the friends and families of those who did not. You can see the trauma in the faces of those victims brave enough to share their stories, the glazed-over look of shock and disbelief at what they witnessed. Scott is primarily popular among high school and college-aged kids. The youngest person to have been confirmed dead was just 14 years old.
I'm angry. I'm angry that this concert was allowed to proceed, after crazed fans without tickets rushed the barricades earlier in the day and tore down the fences.
I'm angry that 50,000 people were allowed to congregate in this way, squished together like sardines in the middle of a deadly pandemic. I'm angry that security was understaffed, that there were practically no medical services available, that the cries of these victims were simply ignored by organizers of the event. I'm angry that so many people chose to prioritize a concert experience over the safety and well-being of those around them.
But I don't want to focus solely on the horrors of Friday night. I want to take this opportunity to recognize the heroes. As hundreds of people desperately fought for their lives, there were those who took the time to pull strangers to safety, to help fallen victims back to their feet, to attempt CPR on lifeless bodies with absolutely no medical training whatsoever.
In one of the night's most heartbreaking and infuriating moments, young people Ayden Cruz and Seanna Faith broke free of the crowd and desperately tried to inform a cameraman that someone had died, begging the man to stop the show and contact authorities. He ignored them.
Ayden, booed by a crowd of fans unaware of the hell that was breaking loose around them, shouted into the swarm of people that those in trouble were somebody's children and that they needed help. According to Seanna, one of the crew members threatened to throw her off of the 15-foot platform she had climbed if she didn't walk away. You can read her full account of the experience here:
A young man named Matt Aguilera (@_mattaguilera on TikTok) described the trauma of watching a woman die in front of him and talked about helping people he didn't know over the barricades to safety. A young woman (@slipperyfishes on TikTok) described the terror of being crushed between two men, an elbow on her windpipe preventing her from breathing. A girl she didn't know grabbed her hand and pulled her away.
While some danced on emergency vehicles, displaying callous disregard for the loss of life occurring around them, others selflessly worked to push back against the surging crowd and to save perfect strangers. Their courage and unity is beyond commendable.
As these survivors begin the long process of healing, I can only express my sincerest well wishes and hopes for their recovery. In the meantime, we must continue to demand answers and to hold accountable the people and organizations responsible for this senseless tragedy.