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by Peter Moskos

May 5, 2010

Crowd stampede at Netherlands WWII ceremony

I'm not a big fan of crowds. Mobs do stupid things--both intentionally and through panic. I always like having an out.

Interestingly, I've always felt a little more claustrophobic in Dutch crowds. I think they're used to less personal space so they get tighter together (which is also a sign of their general civility). The Dutch also sometimes seem a little less willing to move out of the way in crowded bars (and yet I will get to the bathroom.). Though it might be just that the Dutch are so damn tall. I'm 5'9". I feel short in Amsterdam; I can't see over anybody! (In Mexico, though, I feel like a giant.)

My mom was in this crowd. There's English in that link from the BBC. Here's the Dutch:

My mother wrote this:
Today is Remembrance Day for the victims of WWII. Queen Beatrix and other dignitaries lay wreaths at the National Monument on Dam Square. The city of Amsterdam observes two minutes of silence at 8PM. [Actually I think it's the whole country and it's a very respectful and moving tradition.]

I biked over there, locked my bike a short distance away and was standing in front of a building from where we could see the huge screen and follow the event. It is a moving experience to be present at this kind of gathering, I don’t think I have ever witnessed this huge amount of people gathered anywhere.

Just after the moment of silence, a very loud shriek could be heard not that far away from where I was standing. Immediately, a huge amount of people started to move away from where the sound had come from. It was scary when this mass of people attempted to run away from the shout. It had not reached the stage of panic. I was somewhat protected/cushioned by three rows of people in front of me, but I could easily imagine what could have happened once the mass of people had really been in motion. Someone shouted in a very comforting voice “
rustig” for people to remain calm which they did in my immediate area. Someone next to me remarked that he did not hear a bomb go. Just the thought of it. Moments later I could see police officers leading a person away and things returned to normal. An hour later, once I was home again, I listened to the news on the radio. It was reported that fifty persons had been injured.


Bob G. said...

Must be attributable to all those DRUGS they're allowed to smoke legally...'ya think?
(have another "puff of courage")

imho - disgusting behavior.

(good coevrage, btw)

PCM said...

Bob, I don't think.

I hope and assume you're joking.

People going to a war remembrance are not your average tourist stoner.

Panicked crowds are not disgusting. They're scary.