I seem to have a knack for being nearby mass casualty incidents (I was in Reno at the time of the airshow crash. I finished the Boston Marathon 40 minutes before the bombing).
Camp Randall Crush
20 years ago this week I was a senior at the University of Wisconsin and a member of the Wisconsin Marching Band. When the Badgers beat the University of Michigan the band took the field for the 5th quarter and the student section began to rush the field. Being at ground level I couldn’t see any of the chaos and injury unfolding not far from me. I looked to the band director and field assistants, with their distinctive black hats, turned backwards, and their higher position on step ladders for direction. What they were seeing or hearing caused them to direct the band to leave the field. I have never heard who told them to evacuate the field or what those messages were. Almost as soon as we had taken the field. We exited the stadium through the south end zone, instead of our usual north end zone. We walked and marched our way back to the Humanities building for our usual post-game ceremony and return of uniforms and instruments.
Hours later I was at Dotty Dumplings Dowry with my parents and roommate. This was 20 years ago – before cellphones, Facebook, and Twitter. We had no idea of the unfolding tragedy at Camp Randall. Dozens of students were injured and many were critical. Dotty’s had a giant screen television. The football game being broadcast was interrupted for breaking updates from Camp Randall. Until that news break-in I had no idea that my classmates were sorting through the injured, football players were performing CPR and giving rescue breaths, and the City of Madison Fire Department was transporting dozens of patients to the hospital. It was surreal then and surreal now to think that I was so close and yet so distant from the injured.
Twenty Years Later
I haven’t often thought of that event. Today I read Camp Randall Crush Remembered and those memories came rushing back. I can feel the dampness and coolness in the air. It had been an unusual season for Wisconsin football because for the first time in my lifetime Wisconsin football was a winner and nationally relevant. A few weeks later as a band member I accompanied the football team for a game in Tokyo and on January 1st marched in the Rose parade and at the Rose Bowl. Perhaps those memories overwhelmed the memories of the crush and injured.
At the time I had medical first responder and CPR training. But the band was evacuated from the stadium and I had no opportunity to assist others. The band (300+ people and instruments) needed to clear the field so ambulances and rescue personnel could reach the injured.
I am relieved now, as I was then, that all of the injured survived.