December 28, 2017: The Taj Mahal was the scene of a crowd surge. Visitors pushed their way inside the gates near the scheduled closing time. Five injuries were reported. No fatalities, but plenty of anxiety.
January 8, 2018: The Taj Mahal, constructed back in the mid-1600’s and considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world, announced new guidelines in response to the recent crowd crush. The revered tourist site officially set a 40,000 cap on the maximum number of daily visitors.
January 9, 2018: A stampede outside a military recruitment drive in the Rohtas district of Bihar, India resulted in 1 death and at least 5 injuries.
January 11, 2018: A stampede outside Capricorn College in Johannesburg, South Africa resulted in 6 injuries, 1 of them critical. Prospective students seeking free tuition were lining up to register for classes.
I realize these events are just seemingly minor blips in the daily news cycle. Your life was likely unaffected. But I can assure you that others are still coping with the fallout. Things like this happen more often than you might realize.
Almost anywhere you look, there’s a line. The bank, the checkout counter, the toll booth, that all-you-can-eat buffet, eh? But at what point does the human congestion, frustration and anxiety… turn dangerous and deadly? Well, there’s no precise recipe. There is no universally accepted manual for how to prevent a human stampede. But maybe there should be.
Flashback — January 8, 2018: Large lines form outside Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia for the NCAA Division I championship game. Georgia vs. Alabama. It’s an all SEC showdown. Lengthy queues outside the venue. The weather is unusually cold and rainy. Anticipation is high. Tension is building. Most of the fans are from out of town. Few have any familiarity with the new stadium which opened its gates in late August of 2017.
The Department of Homeland Security has designated the game a “tier 1” event. More checkpoints, more cement barricades, more video cameras, more bomb-sniffing dogs, more police, more undercover detectives searching for scalpers and counterfeit merchandise, more of everything.
Lines outside the stadium reach a standstill. Some fans have been waiting for over an hour. It’s quickly becoming apparent, that if things don’t start to move along, a significant percentage of those on the outside are NOT going to make it in for kick-off.
All of sudden, the presidential motorcade zips through. Donald Trump and his security entourage are briskly escorted inside the stadium. Trump made a determination that his presence was necessary (On the field. Surrounded by police. During the national anthem, of course).
Meanwhile, multiple protests are being held by the NAACP and Refuse Fascism Atlanta. There’s a general air of hostility. Both inside and outside the stadium. Not everyone in Atlanta is a fan of the Trump administration.
Take a moment and consider the totality of this event. All of the various factors. The direction in which things could have turned.
Of course, long lines are nothing new. But maintaining public safety is often dependent on random circumstances and unanticipated variables. There’s a reason people use the term “tipping point.” It’s that singular moment, or multiple moments, when everything escalates out of control.
Like I was saying, these days there are so many lines. Verbal lines, too.
Hey, Mercedes Benz Stadium is a fine facility. A brand new, 1.6 billion dollar NFL stadium. It’s hardly a shithole.
Football fans are fine people. And they’re Americans. But let’s be honest. Americans, on the whole, are scared shitless.
Think about it.