It was around 7:45 P.M. on September 29, 2018. Many were at the Global Citizens Festival and were having the time of their lives until attendees at the concert stepped and jumped on water bottles. This sounds silly, but the sounds of the water bottles exploding sounded like gunshots, and the police immediately declared an active shooter, sending thousands of people into a panic and storming off the field towards the exits. Many do not know how traumatizing it is to be a part of that. People are running for their lives, and in that moment, all people care about is surviving and running to safety no matter who or what they are stepping on or running into. Although there were no gunshots, there still were people getting trampled and injured. This experience is unforgettable. About a half an hour later, attendees found out that it was a false claim. There was no active shooter, but nobody could blame the police for doing their job. Given the state of the United States alone, it’s not surprising to anyone that something like this could happen.
Below are two primary accounts of this horrifying tragedy:
Izzy Gualtiere: “I was with my friend Elizabeth, and we had just left the crowd to get something to eat in between the performers. We decided to sit right near the food tent, which happened to be directly next to the exit. We were looking at pictures we had taken earlier and just talking about the previous performers we had seen. All of a sudden, we heard screaming and yelling and looked up to see hundreds of people running in our direction. Without thinking, I immediately jumped up and ran as fast as I could out of the park. Elizabeth and I ended up finding each other after we were separated for five minutes. We didn’t even know what was going on until we asked the people running with us. It was probably the scariest experience that I have ever gone through. I called my parents because I didn’t know what was going on but knew they were watching on TV. They told me a barrier had fallen and caused the noise but deep down I knew that could not be the only thing that set thousands running.”
Isaac Hentel: “I was with my cousins and their au pair. One of my cousins and I were waiting on a line to get ice cream for everyone, which happened to be closer to the exit when this incident happened. Out of nowhere, we heard screams and thousands of people running towards us. Given the state of our world, we assumed there was a shooting or some sort of attack. My cousin said we had to run even though we weren’t with the other two people. It was horrifying leaving them not knowing if they were okay. By the time we made it out of Central Park, police cars were all over the entrance and police officers were running past us as we were running out. It was a horrifying experience because the police officers didn’t seem to know what was happening either. I will never forget the horror of being separated from people you care for and the horror of other people’s faces running for their lives. It is an experience you never want to have and for many people the worst nightmare. Eventually, after calling so many people and especially our parents, they told us it was a barrier that fell, and it was a false alarm. You can say that I’m physically okay, but this will have an effect on me for the rest of my life.”
The last thing we want to mention is that there are clear issues to this incident. The fact that we live in a world in which one loud sound at a big event results to gunshots in so many people’s minds is extremely horrific. Other countries such as Australia have such strict gun laws. When the au pair (mentioned in Isaac’s account of the incident) saw people running, she was not afraid and thought it was a fight that broke out between attendees. The fact that her world does not revolve around mass shootings is how life should be for everyone; for teens in America, many are afraid of mass shootings when they go to school, and for the kids who attended the Global Citizens Festival, they will fear going to another concert. We have learned from this experience to always have an exit plan whether it be at school, a small event, or a big event.