As I look back on the past 24 hours, the same word that I have used countless times comes to my mind again. Our group has been chanting it like a mantra, as a sentence of shock and to remind ourselves of how close we came.
"We were so lucky."
As we stood in front of mirrors readjusting our neon hair pieces just an hour or so before the panics started, there was not one person in our group that ever dreamed of the danger that could possibly arise out of a Love Parade. It was, after all, the Love Parade.
When we finally returned to our hostel we sat on the couch in front of the German news that recounted the events of the afternoon, and as we sat we started the realization of all our luck. We were lucky we left so late. When we arrived at the train station in Dusseldorf to take the train to Duisberg, the trains could not run because crowds had stormed the tracks to get to the venue. There were buses hired that we took instead, and we heard on the way that there were already a million people there.
I've been trying to figure out what exactly it was that made the mass of people attending Love Parade think that their safety and the lives of others was less important than partying.
We heard over the phone later that the deaths in the mass panic had occurred around 5:40, and again we called ourselves lucky that after exiting the buses at 5:20, we started walking away from the tunnels where 19 people were killed.
We were lucky that we listened to the policeman that told us to go the long way around. At the time, we were only upset that we were going to miss DJ Tiesto, and my main concern was the shards of glass that were near our feet every few steps.
After walking through the huge crowds for an hour or so, we heard that Love Parade had been canceled completely, and we decided that we needed to leave and started back towards the train station. In a line of five people holding hands, we managed to get through the tiny gate towards the train station, and the gates closed as we passed through.
We were lucky we left when we did, and we were lucky we got through the barrier.
We sat cross-legged on the end of a cement platform with the setting sun in our eyes, and we watched Love Parade going on a few hundred yards from where we sat.
We wondered why it was still going, and if the people inside knew anything of what had happened.
Listening to pumping music and watching the huge screens show thousands of people inside dancing, nothing seemed wrong. It wasn't a big deal, and we had come all of this way and made so much effort.
So three of us thought we would try to get back in.
The walk through the train station was eerily quiet, and we figured that Love Parade had to still be going strong, if no one wanted to leave. But we changed our minds when we walked out and saw a double barrier with thousands of people behind it waiting to try to get in. I turned to my best friend and told her that I didn't think we were taking the deaths seriously enough. We managed to get on an already full train with the rest of our group which eventually made its way back to Dusseldorf.
We had our luck with us throughout the whole thing, but was it simply chance of having so many people there that made the 19 people who died unlucky?
There is something gravely ironic that this happened at Love Parade. We've heard that it has been called "Death Parade" now, and there are tee shirts available that read "I survived Love Parade 2010".
It seems to me that the only people who would buy those shirts and use that name for the events that happened would be the same group that lost the meaning of the love. The music and big name DJs became the most important thing and instead of becoming part of a group enjoying the music and dancing in the love, a need to get there first and experience it best became more important.
It can be blamed on poor planning, and far too many people, but ultimately it comes down to if you are standing in that group, are you going to make others suffer for your experience? It was shocking to me that so many people would do that. And now our generation is sure to suffer the consequences, as large music venues of many sorts will be considered not a place to gather and enjoy music, but as a likely possibility for panic, death and serious injury.
My luck saved me and the rest of my friends that day, but I certainly won't be counting on it next time that I consider going to a music venue of any kind. I'll be counting on my common sense, and I hope the rest of the young adults who know about Love Parade will be able to do the same.