It's 6:45 AM. I should've gone to sleep about 2 hours ago, but my brain keeps going back to a certain day in 2010.
So, for some reason, you my dear reader, get a free and completely subjective rendition of the events that unfolded in my life on the 24th July of that year.
On that day, the Love Parade was held in Duisburg.
For those of you who haven't heard of the Love Parade, I should probably mention that the Love Parade was a (mostly) annual free rave, originally intended also as political demonstration, though that part got diminished with progressing commercialization, but entry always remained free.
I'd been to the previous Love Parade in 2008 in Dortmund and with 1.6 MILLION visitors it was literally the biggest rave in the history of humankind. You could even still make out some of the PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect) mentality of early raverdom.
So, on this somewhat fateful day, I met with friends and we were on our way to what we thought would be a huge and amazing rave.
When we arrived at the venue and finally got in, we were dismayed. Nothing made any sense. The venue was way, WAY too small. Just a small round track around some industrial building. To make matters worse, there was just one entrance and exit through a T-shaped tunnel with the venue being completely fenced in.
And if all that wasn't enough of a let-down, the air was full of sandy dust and the vast majority of the venues floor was SHARP FUCKING STONES. In short – the venue was the exact antithesis of what anyone ever would want for a dance party.
This was not what we signed up for – This was not a Love Parade.
We explored the venue, trying to make sense of our abrupt teleportation to crazyland and after realizing this really was it, we separated.
My friends wanted to try and make the best of it while disillusioned lil' me decided to bail, get home and visit one of the local afterparties.
So I went back towards the entrance/exit tunnel. I was stopped maybe 50 meters in front of the tunnel by a huge mass of people, most of them seemingly trying to get to greener pastures as well.
High walls to both sides, tunnel in front, crowd in every direction.
Those of you who know about the Love Parade probably have some notion of what's to follow – Yeah, it ain't pretty.
With more and more people wanting out, I was almost instantly part of the aforementioned mass of people – but while most people wanted out, many people still tried to get in. They probably hadn't gotten the memo on what the city of Duisburg deemed to be a venue worthy of the biggest rave on the planet.
This lead to what might most accurately be described as waves going through the crowd. I don't mean this in any sort of metaphorical sense. What I mean is that the surface of the crowd looked pretty much like a stormy ocean.
You got pushed forward and backward constantly.
Not on the ground, mind you – No. You got pushed in an angle, your head moving forward and backward while your feet pretty much remained on the same spot, because the crowd was so dense.
I remember being annoyed by some girl exclaiming "I think I'm gonna have a panic attack!", because that shit is how stampedes get started.
And then, of course, the fucking stampede started.
A construction fence got knocked over, people started using the lampposts and other things to climb the walls to the sides.
I was still mostly pinned in place, but my distance to the wall was shrinking.
Then, I heard the screaming. I tried finding the source, but couldn't.
It seemed to come from… underneath the people moving over the construction fence to climb up.
And it did. There was someone lying under the fence – with all those people literally walking over him. I don't even remember his face, all I remember is this expression of utter desperation and excruciating pain – something I likely won't ever be able to communicate properly.
When I looked up, I saw people on the fence looking down on him, no emotion. Seemingly completely disinterested in this human being they were killing out of self-interest.
In that moment, I wanted to murder each and everyone on that fence.
To this day, I cannot fathom how you can pull off shit like that and still call yourself human and I doubt I ever will.
I somehow managed to inform a pretty muscly guy close to me, who was trying to protect his (by comparison) tiny girlfriend. Even with this conflict of interest, this guy did not hesitate. We managed to use our bodies to block any more people from getting onto the fence and get someone to pull the poor guy out of there. Due to the general chaos, I'm not 100% sure if he got up the wall, but I think so.
We pushed the crowd back pretty hard to accomplish this and I don't know to what degree this contributed to the 21 dead and >500 injured of that stampede, but frankly: I don't give a flying fuck – this shit was inhuman.
After this, I managed to get to a lamppost and climb up the wall. At the top, a cop helped me over the railing. There were more cops up there, helping people out, giving first aid.
Now, people who know me will attest to the fact that I do not say something like this lightly – but, as humans, these cops did right in that situation.
The shitshow a few meters below me continued.
I went to the first emergency exit in the fence. Closed. I told the security guards that there was chaos in the exit and already multiple injuries. The guards told me they hadn't heard of such a thing over their radio and wouldn't open the emergency exit.
I went around the complete venue, doing the same thing at every emergency exit and getting the same answer at every time.
I was exhausted, beaten down and destroyed.
I remember at some point, the first emergency exit was opened after all. I finally went out, through the city, toward the trainstation.
I guess I got home at some point, but my memory of that day stops here.
It left me feeling exhausted, both physically and psychologically.
In a twisted sense, I guess I can say that I have seen both, the worst and the best of humanity that day.
I consider the people who indifferently walked over the fence with the guy under it to be absolutely despicable.
But I also consider the muscly guy to be one of the heroes of that day. He could've just cared about himself and his girlfriend, but he didn't. He helped in an instant, and without him, the other guy in all likelihood would have gotten trampled to death under that fence.
I doubt anyone ever thanked him, so muscly guy, if you ever read this: