#Memoir Byte: -Not Far From The Maddening Crowd – The Day I Thought Was My Last

New Year’s Eve, approximately 10 years ago while in Las Vegas, Nevada, we had tickets to partake in a New Year’s celebration with dinner and dancing at a fabulous restaurant in the Planet Hollywood hotel right next door to the Paris Hotel where we were staying. We thought it would be convenient to celebrate the new year close by our hotel because it was conveniently located and didn’t require a cab on one of the craziest traffic nights in Las Vegas to get there. But something we almost gravely over-looked was the much anticipated wait for what seemed liked thousands of people setting themselves up for the planned daredevil stunt of Evel Knievel’s son to cross from one side of the huge Las Vegas Boulevard  to the other on his motorcycle across a tightrope.

 

Our reservations were for 8pm, so at 7:30pm we began our – what should have been a 10 minute walk from hotel to hotel, but once we got outside we were presented with a dilemma.

Once outside, we saw the yellow caution tape and guardrails were all in place. Our hotel and the one we were heading to next door had been blocked off as well as much of Las Vegas Boulevard. No pedestrian could pass through the blockade to walk next door as the crazy stunt show was being prepared for. The Las Vegas strip was blocked off for blocks so that no car traffic would clog the streets where pedestrians usually stand with drinks in hand to take in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve, already packed with spectators. The only way we could get next door was by crossing the multi-laned boulevard, walking down a long few blocks in order to cross back and walk back up to our destination – only the streets were filled with thousands already awaiting the deadly stunt. There was no way anyone could humanly cross through the stampede of people.

We stood in amazement surveying the crowded street, wondering how on earth we could plow through what seemed like a giant can of sardines growing tighter by the minutes. From my vantage point it seemed as though people barely had enough room to stand in one spot with barely enough room to keep their two feet both on the ground, holding their drinks high above their heads because there was certainly no room for arms length. Either many people were going to be wearing those drinks or one little shove by anyone would set off a domino effect of everyone falling and then being trampled on.

The crowd was rambunctious. My anxiety escalated by the second. We had yet to attempt to cross the road, fearing there was no room to walk through and nobody was letting anyone in their reserved standing space for fear they may get pushed back from their coveted spots. There was literally no room left for another body to squeeze onto the boulevard.

Many police were on the scene doing their best to maintain crowd control, constantly blowing whistles and reminding people not to come near the guard rails, which also guarded the police in safety from themselves not being bulldozed over by an overwhelming amount of people. All we wanted to do was get across the street and it was apparent if we were to get to our venue, we had to attempt getting through that crowd.

I’m a claustrophobic person, and the sight of what we had to endeavor just to cross almost paralyzed me with fear. Somehow, my impatient husband finally grabbed my arm and linked it tightly and said it was time to plow through.

We began our trek. After nearly half an hour of desperately pushing through people while chanting a thousand ‘pardon mes’, we barely managed to cross one lane and we were stuck. This prompted my husband to become exceptionally aggressive using his elbows to attempt to make space for us to pass while pushing and shouting out loud, “We don’t want your spot, we just want to cross the street,” repeatedly. I struggled to keep hold of his arm as I tried to breathe. My 5’2″ stature made me feel as though I were a doll stuck among a sea of giants and as my anxiety elevated I began to hyper- ventilate with visions of dying right there from lack of oxygen. The crowd was getting rowdier and had no compassion for anyone standing in their way.

I was sure I was going to die that night in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard. My fear peaked to the max and I knew in that moment we weren’t going to make it, so I screamed. I shouted at the top of my lungs, “Help me, I’m having a heart attack.” This wasn’t far from the truth as I truly felt I was about to have one. I shouted over the crowd so the police could hear me. And just like one of God’s miracles, a policeman blew his whistle and within a few minutes he’d cleared a narrow path with some other police, grabbed me and pulled me and my husband to a safe spot across to the side of the street we were aiming to get to.

Oceans of tears spilled down my face in relief as the policeman brought the paramedics over to me. I was so flustered and could barely talk but managed to let them know I had recently had open heart surgery as I pulled open my coat to expose my scar so they didn’t think I was lying about heart issues. This was not a lie as I had the surgery two years prior. Yes I screamed heart attack as it was the only option I saw for us to be saved, and surely if I didn’t, I would have had one anyway.

The paramedics wanted to take me to the hospital until I explained what happened and why I was driven to scream for their help. They checked my vitals, gave me a bottle of water and asked me to sit down for a few moments to bring back down my blood pressure. Then they wished me a Happy New Year and let us go.

We walked down 2 long blocks before we could safely cross back across the boulevard – without the crowd, and walked to the restaurant, almost an hour late for our reservation.

I should have listened to my internal warning alarm and sacrificed our evening plans, but I didn’t and learned the hard way how easily people can die in a crowd. If I hadn’t had the good sense to scream ‘heart attack’, I’m almost certain I would have had one anyway.

We were meeting my hub’s daughter and son-in-law at the restaurant. When we finally sat down, they asked, “What took you guys so long.”

Have any of you ever been stuck in a mob crowd?

 

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