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  • Reverend James Squire

Where Was The Good Samaritan?

Eight people died at a Houston Music Festival this past weekend including a 14 years old high school student; a 16 years old girl who loved dancing; and a 21 years old engineering student. The youngest was 14, and the oldest was 27. 13 people remained hospitalized on Sunday. 300 people were treated at a field hospital at the concert. People indicate that it was devastating to hear and see people dying. Some even thought that they would die. So, what happened at this Houston Music Festival and how can it be prevented from occurring again?

There is an investigation looking at the area around the stage, the design of the safety barriers, as well as something may have gotten the crowd too hyped up when the star of the show took the stage. Security people could not stop the people from pressing forward. There were not enough EMTs present.

The investigators in my opinion are missing the forest for the trees. There are obvious precedents that they could consult, but I don’t think that will provide answers to this tragedy as lawsuits have quickly followed in the days after the event.

The Good Samaritan was missing! People stepped on or over others. Those present failed to provide adequate assistance to the people who were down on the ground right next to them.

Peter Salovey, president of Yale University, had a copy of his address to the class of 2020 in the Yale Alumni Magazine. What caught my eye was its focus on who would stop to help someone in need. He cites one of the classic studies from the field of social psychology done in 1970. The study is based on the familiar story of the Good Samaritan. It is a story of just who will care for someone who has fallen on hard times. A man is attacked by robbers and left by the side of the road. The first two people of high standing pass by, and they ignore him. The third man is a social outcast, puts him on a donkey, and takes him to an innkeeper, and says that he will pay for whatever the man needs. This story was the jumping off point of the study. But there was a different take on this parable about the busy nature of our lives. Who would stop if they were running late for a meeting, had some time to help, or had a lot of time to help?

The conclusion was that “the two who didn’t help were not bad people. They just had busier schedules.” Only ten percent of the groups stopped to help. Ninety percent who did not help didn’t feel that they had the time to be of assistance. The study raises the question for the reader, “Are we too busy to help our neighbor, no matter what form the neighbor took?”

I think that a different question is raised in the tragedy at the concert. “Are we too busy focusing on the reason that we are present such as a music festival to help another?” The same kind of things happens at soccer contests around the world. I remember seeing a crush of the crowd and failure to respond at a soccer match in England.

So, I would conclude that inconvenience was there, but more importantly the crowd was so focused on the event with adrenalin filled excitement. I can speak to this from personal experience. It wasn’t a concert. It was a run along the Schuylkill River during the same time that the Stotesbury Regatta was occurring. This is one of the largest regattas in the nation. I had my middle son, Adam, and his bike and his friend and his bike with me as well. I was driving a van at that point in time.

The key to this story was my first lab whose name was Lindy. I had run for years with her at my side with the leash attached to my upper arm. She was never distracted by anything. She must have seen a squirrel or something to our left that day for she bolted in that direction. I went airborne and came down on my head. I did not pass out, but there was blood everywhere and immediately one eye was completely swollen shut. Lindy stayed right next to me as she was attached to me. My only question was how am I going to get all of us home including bikes.

Peoples’ eyes were focused on the excitement on the river during this competitive rowing regatta. They were caught up in the race before them as the concert goers were to the star of the show. Many literally stepped over me. Others just walked around me. To say that you couldn’t miss my human condition was obvious. I realized watching the event overshadowed the Good Samaritan from arriving to help me. It was the worst head injury that our school sports trainer had ever seen. I took off the next day from my work. When the students saw me two days later in chapel, they let out a noticeable gasp. Suffice it to say I learned a lesson that I have passed on to other runners. Never attach your dog to you as reliable as she has been in the past to never bolt and throw you off balance.

The Good Samaritan did eventually show. Finally, a mother of a St. Joseph’s Prep School rower stopped and helped to get all of us into the parked van including kids and bikes as well.

What happened at the Houston Music Festival has happened at many events in our nation. The investigation is looking at the trees of crowd control, stage location, and lack of enough security.

All of those things are important, but human nature is more important. We need to look at the forest of human behavior. We all have been to events in theaters and outside and have heard announcements before the event of where bathrooms are located, the need for masks to be put on, and no recording or filming the event, and turn off cellphones. We need to add to those announcements, one that states what happened in other places and events where injury and death resulted. It should be done in a serious tone to put people on notice that the administration of the event wants everyone to have a great time and leave the experience without harm.

Then the people can begin rousing cheers in the same way where people get excited during the final line of the National Anthem at a sports stadium. Dan Ariely, a Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics and Psychology, has indicated that hearing an ethical statement or direction before any behavior or decision that is about to occur will shape moral behavior of the group or person.

We need to see the forest of good group behavior. We need to identify the trees of the specifics of fencing and security that was in place. Something else is needed. The Good Samaritan is less available in an upbeat intense occasion focused on the specifics of an event. Someone also needs to speak before the event about other tragedies that have occurred in other venues. Recall if passion enters, reason leaves. It would have made a world of difference in the response from people who were at the concert as well as those who were seeing the results of my accident running along a river. “Focus on the race but focus as well on the safety of your neighbor. Be a Good Samaritan.”

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