Thirty years ago, 11 people were killed trying to watch The Who perform in concert in Cincinnati. The 11 were among 18,000 people with tickets to the event, and they were crushed, trampled, or suffocated in the concertgoers’ mad rush to claim the best seats for a performance by one of the premier rock bands of all time. Amazingly, the concert promoters did not sell tickets with assigned seat numbers. It was first come, first served for seats, and the crush of people trying to sit up close led to one of the worst concert disasters in American music history.
The Who concert tragedy occurred when I was in college, in the prime of my rock concert attendance days. It was one of those events that shook your world view and made you pause for a moment. I’ve never had a problem being in a big crowd, and I’ve felt the awesomely powerful surge as a mass of people move forward in unison. It’s a real adrenalin rush. The Who concert deaths made me realize that if I fell or was pressed against the wall, the crowd would not stop or falter — and then, being young, I went ahead and attended the concert or sporting event anyway.
My guess is that most young people have never heard of the deaths at Riverfront Colisseum. As I have aged, however, my perspective on the tragedy has changed. I feel I know how the parents of the young people who died must have felt as they watched their teenager or college student leave that evening for a fun night at a music show — and then later found out that their sons and daughters had died senselessly and needlessly. Those are the kinds of stories that make every parent feel sick, and sad, and hopeful that they never have to receive such horrific news.
The facility is no longer called Riverfront Colisseum. There is nothing to commemorate the event at that location, and Cincinnati no doubt would prefer to forget a tragic event that is seen as a civic black eye. As the linked article indicates, however, some of the survivors of the dead are trying to place a memorial at the location. It seems appropriate.