Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Who Concert Tragedy 30 Years Later

Typically, if you asked me what I was doing 30 years ago, I couldn't tell you, but I could today because this is the 30th anniversary of the Who concert tragedy in Cincinnati.

I was a high school senior attending the show with my friend Janet. We went out to eat beforehand, arrived late before the show's start, and entered the coliseum through a different set of doors than the one where the deaths occurred.

Janet and I had no idea what happened until after the show. The concert went on as normal because the Who wasn't even told what happened until afterwards. Officials were concerned that if the show was cancelled, a riot would have started.

As we were walking out, someone approached us and said, "Did you hear a bunch of people got killed tonight?" I said, "Really? Wow!" I turned to my friend and said, "Did you hear that? He must be drunk." Outside the coliseum on the plaza, television trucks of the local stations were filming departing concert goers with their big flood lights. I said to my friend, "They must be here because the Who is so famous."

It wasn't until we got in the car, turned on WEBN, and heard the dire concern of the disc jockey's voice, that we finally realized what happened. The announcer said, "If you've been at the show, please call your family right away and let them know you're safe." So we drove to a phone booth and called our families. My mother was worried sick. My younger sisters were crying. And that's when it finally dawned on this shallow teenager that we were at a spot of a tragedy.

Initial reports described the deaths as a stampede, implying that fault rested with the concert goers. But further investigation would show that the real fault rested with coliseum officials who didn't open up a sufficient number of doors for a sold out crowd.

WVXU has produced and an excellent radio special and the Cincinnati Enquirer has lots of stories and links about this tragic day, 30 years later.
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