The year – 1991. The city – Bangkok. At the time, few musicians had Thailand on their tour schedule, so when my friends and I heard that Europe was coming to perform we jumped at the chance to see a real-life rock band.
Little did I know that rocking out at a concert would end up having such an impact on my life.
We arrived at the arena late because of traffic. The concert was supposed to begin at 6:30 and we arrived at 6:00.
I should have known that it was going to be an interesting night the minute we entered the stadium. A sea of people separated us and the stage. We could barely make out the people on stage from the back, but what could we do?
My best friend said something along the lines of, “Screw this…I’m going to the front.” I honestly didn’t see how the 12 of us would make it, but he was undeterred and proceeded to walk us all the way to what seemed to be the 12th row – I was impressed. Now you might be wondering why I said, “seemed to be.”
Well, unlike concerts in the US or Japan, there were no seats whatsoever.
Imagine an empty soccer field with no stands and you begin to understand what it looked like.
The sun set shortly afterwards but the band was nowhere to be found.
Around 7:30 things started happening.
A few stage lights were turned on and some people appeared to do what looked like a few last minute checks on stage.
Naturally, as the audience had been waiting for a while, the excitement started to build.
Then at 7:40 it began.
First, the lights went off and a buzz started going around the stadium. Everyone got to their feet and within 30 seconds or so “Kaboom…” it had begun.
I forget which song they did first, but what I don’t forget is what happened next. A surge of people pushed to get closer to the stage.
With no seats in-between us, it became one big mess of people pushing forward.
I instantly became separated from my friends.
I didn’t know what to do so decided to make my way to the front, that way at least I’d enjoy the concert.
Within a minute I found myself in the second row. Awesome right?!
Not really…I tried to put my hands in the air to jam, but as soon as I did I became pinned between the man in front of me and the people behind me. The pressure was intense. I could hardly breathe.
I used my left forearm to create space for myself by placing it on the back of the man in front of me and was able to get back to jamming.
I can still remember the look on the man’s face when he turned around. His eyes said it all…fear.
The crowd had lost control.
He was terrified and was bracing himself against the stage with two hands.
Suddenly, what had been fun became very real.
Then, from somewhere behind me I heard someone say, “Help.”
Now in 1991, I should mention that there were very few Westerners residing in Bangkok. Maybe around 500 people living in the entire city would have had an interest in attending such an event, many of whom attended my school.
I looked around and saw one of my best friends and, just like the man in front of me, his eyes told me everything I needed to know.
My friend loved to workout and was quite strong, but he was no match for the awesome strength of the crowd.
It was like watching a drowning man scream for help.
He was about 15 rows back so I pushed and shoved my way to him. When I reached him, I found he was with two other girls from my school equally terrified.
I looked around and saw that the best option was to head back towards the stage and get out that way.
I grabbed them and started guiding them through the crowd.
On our way, we were pushed to the ground by the human wave and I knew we were in real danger. We had seconds.
I jumped to my feet immediately and pulled them up as fast as I could.
When we got to the stage, my friend and I helped push the girls up first, then I gave my friend a boost. But as I tried to lift myself on stage, the nails holding the board in place came out and I fell back into the crowd.
Thankfully, I, nor anyone else was hurt by this. I found myself alone.
My friends had disappeared off stage. I had no idea where my original group of friends was. It was just me, myself and I.
Security finally managed to take control of the situation and things calmed down.
People had stopped pushing so I made my way through the crowd easy enough. I was unsure of what to do; stay or leave.
By chance, I happened to run into my original group of friends and we proceeded to exchange stories of what had happened to us. Many of us had lost our watches. Our clothes ripped and my best friend’s brother had lost both his shoes. Surreal is the best word to describe it.
The concert was restarted a short time later and we decided to make the most out of our evening and enjoyed the rest of the concert.
It wasn’t until later that night that I really had time to analyze what had happened and how much danger we were all in.
I learned seven life lessons that fateful night:
- Fresh air is not the same as heated air.
- Our strength is directly related to the amount of fresh air we have.
- No one man’s strength can compare to that of a hundred or a thousand.
- Height helps.
- Danger can strike at any time.
- Panic can cost you seconds you don’t have.
- Think fast.
The energy created from all the bodies moving together was intense and just a few inches separated fresh air from hot air. I’m not tall (about 6″) but at that stadium, I was taller than 95% of the people there and that made all the difference.
It is my hope that you never find yourself in a similar situation, but should you, it is critical to remain calm.
Time is of the essence, so act decisively.
Business crises are no different from life-threatening ones.
Come up with a plan and implement it.
I’m just grateful that mine worked out that night.
Funny, I never imagined that a Europe concert would have such a profound effect on my life.