I somehow missed this story the other day, perhaps because it was caused by an event that never happened. David Wallace-Wells from New York Magazine, tells the story of how someone in the crowd at JFK Airport apparently mistook the sound of people cheering and clapping Usain Bolt’s 100 meter final for gunfire. In the security paranoid environment of an airport it didn’t take much to start a mass panic.
The applause sounded like gunfire, somehow, or to someone; really, it only takes one. According to some reports, one woman screamed that she saw a gun. The cascading effect was easier to figure: When people started running, a man I met later on the tarmac said, they plowed through the metal poles strung throughout the terminal to organize lines, and the metal clacking on the tile floors sounded like gunfire. Because the clacking was caused by the crowd, wherever you were and however far you’d run already, it was always right around you.
The airport was evacuated, planes were delayed, even emergency chutes were deployed on some, passengers ran onto the tarmac, it was pandemonium. Interestingly, the airport security appeared to be mostly ineffective in controlling the situation with reports of the security guards being just as panicked and confused as the passengers.
Guards were rushing back and forth, themselves panicked, and each time any one of them made a sudden movement, the rest of us seemed to swell up, too, and surge forward for the door. Guards and passengers kept screaming at each other; if the security had been armed, a shooting wouldn’t have just been possible but likely.
What a frightening situation, so glad it turned out to be a false alarm.
Via One Foot Tsunami.