Panic broke out at the recent Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Sept. 29 when concertgoers, including many Seton Hall students who were in attendance, mistakenly believed there was an active shooter.
At the concert, there was a loud noise that scared people into thinking there was an active shooter. However, it was a false alarm.
More than half dozen Seton Hall students and their friends attended the concert. Many students said they felt scared and ran for their lives.
A message was posted to Global Citizen’s website on Sept. 30 from Global Citizen’s Chief Executive Officer, Hugh Evans, which said they were working with the NYPD.
“In the 7 o’clock hour yesterday evening, some attendees heard a loud noise causing significant alarm to those attendees who believed it sounded like gunshots,” said the message. “NYPD quickly determined that the noise was not gunshots, made an announcement on stage, and worked alongside FDNY, event security, and Global Citizen to ensure public safety.”
According to Evans, “While NYPD originally advised that a fallen security barrier caused the noise, NYPD informed us today that it was the sound of an attendee(s) stepping on and popping a drink bottle(s).”
Evans said, “A few dozen people reported injuries and sought treatment for injuries sustained as they were moving away from the area.”
The Setonian spoke with the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) Deputy Commissioner Public Information (DCPI) person, Phillip Walzak, to ask some questions about what happened at the concert.
Walzak said the NYPD would review The Setonian’s media request, but that the NYPD gets numerous media requests and it’s difficult to reply to everyone. The Setonian has currently not received a reply from Walzak or the NYPD.
Global Citizen’s website says they are “a movement of engaged citizens who are using their collective voice to end extreme poverty by 2030.”
SHU students spoke about their experience at the concert and how it made them feel.
Nadia Lyall, a junior psychology major, attended the Global Citizen concert with her friends.
She wrote in an email that she and her friends arrived early to the concert so they could be close to the stage.
“Prior to the noises, there were technical difficulties with the speakers and lights at the concert leaving everyone standing around impatiently waiting for the next act to perform,” Lyall said. “The speakers came on for a second and then cut out followed by loud inconsistent banging noises. Instinctively I believed they were gunshots and I and others in the overstuffed crowd fell to the floor immediately.”
She described what it was like being in that moment of terror and chaos.
“I really thought that something catastrophic was going on so immediately I went into fight or flight mode,” she said. “Others were crying and screaming and holding onto their friends and telling the people around them that they loved them.”
She said that people started yelling things like “shooting,” “run,” and “get out.” Lyall said, “It was something out of a horror movie. My friends and I were running for our lives and trying to make sure our group was all safe and all together.”
Lyall went into detail about how she felt during it all.
“New York City is already such a target for terrorism, while although nothing bad was actually happening, I’ve never felt more frightened in my life,” she said. “After getting out of the first section, everyone was still running to get out of the park, because the sounds were still going off in the distance.
That’s when I came out of flight or fight mode, and the gravity of what I understood to be happening hit me.”
She said she called her parents, told them she thought there was a shooting and that she loved them. She started to cry and her “emotions were a rollercoaster,” she said, especially once she found out there was no threat.
“I went from being terrified, to being overcome with sadness and emotion, to being utterly shocked,” she said.
Lyall said that when the microphones came back on, she said she was told to keep exiting and that “there was no reassurance of safety or that there was no real threat.” She added, “At the same time, police cars and ambulances and a helicopter were all coming to the scene, making it seem like there was some threat still happening. It was not until after we left completely that we heard that people were coming on stage and saying there was no threat, and proceeded with the concert.”
Another student, Olivia Montine, a sophomore English major, was also at the concert when panic broke out among the crowd.
She said that her friends and her were at the back of the venue. She wrote in an email that they “had no option but to run and follow the crowd since everyone” in front was running toward them.
Montine said, “People were trampling others, screaming and trying to stay together.” She added that she was one of the first people to get out and that no one knew what was happening. She said event officials told people to leave the park.
“The entire experience was very unsettling,” she said. “Since we were running out so fast, we did not even hear that it was not a real incident until we got out of the park and could check our phones. So in the moment, we were running and fleeing like we thought there was an active shooter.”
Montine also spoke about how she heard that after she left, Chris Martin from Coldplay went on stage and calmed the crowd down once NYPD confirmed there was no shooter.\
A Sept. 29 New York Times article confirmed that Martin tried to calm down the crowd and then gave the microphone to someone with the police department.
Sophomore Alexis Juarez, a visual and sound media major, also attended the concert.
She wrote in an email that in the moment at the concert, she didn’t know what was happening.
Juarez said she was in the section closest to the stage, but not close enough to hear what was described as “gunshot” sounds. She said it was all “very scary” when it occurred.
“I was just sitting on the grass talking with my friends when there was screaming towards the front of the stage, but we just assumed the crowd was cheering,” she said. “Then we just saw people running and screaming towards us in a fast stampede. We had to get up immediately otherwise we would’ve gotten trampled.”
The venue was fenced in and so people were climbing the fence and “throwing themselves over gates” trying get out, she said. “We had no idea why people were running and screaming and crying so that made it even more worrisome.”
“Before the incident I don’t think we felt scared or worried at all, it seemed very safe,” she said. “Overall I had a good time at the concert but those few minutes just kind of caught us off guard and shook our nerves. I know many people were injured from the stampede, but overall I’m just very glad to find out that it was nothing [that] was too serious or a fatal tragedy.”
Samantha Todd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.