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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor: Processing the Astroworld tragedy


An overview of the Astroworld Festival crowd during Lil Baby's performance, hours before Travis Scott took the stage. | Donna Keeya/The Cougar

An overview of the Astroworld Festival crowd during Lil Baby’s performance, hours before Travis Scott took the stage. | Donna Keeya/The Cougar

When you work in journalism you often face the paradox of objectively reporting the history you are living through while you are experiencing it. From hurricanes, to pandemics to tragedies, you often have to dissociate your own feelings from incidents to report on them without bias.

For many media personnel, the most recent example of this is the Astroworld Festival tragedy. Three editorial board members and I were working at Travis Scott’s highly anticipated festival, including Friday night’s fatal show in a crowd with many fellow UH students.

While I’m beyond grateful and privileged to say that none of my coworkers or I experienced any injuries, we’re now, along with tens of thousands of concert attendees, in the midst of processing the mass casualty event that was Astroworld 2021. 

At Scott’s headlining performance, I would say I was in the back to the middle portion of the left side of the crowd. And with an audience of around 50,000 people attending, my range of vision didn’t extend much past directly in front of me. Now retrospectively understanding the luck that came with my location, I was very fortunate to have not experienced extreme shoving or tramplings.

When I came home a little past midnight on Saturday morning, I was completely unaware of the tragedy I had experienced the night before. It wasn’t until 6 a.m. the next morning when I received a phone call from my older sister asking if I was OK that I realized what had happened. 

Immediately after, I fell down a rabbit hole of media coverage, gathering all the information I possibly could find from the night before. By 8 a.m. I had began working on The Cougar’s coverage of the fatal event.

Personally, it has taken me hours to register the magnitude of that night, and still don’t feel like I’m all the way there. While I can disassociate my feelings while covering events, I will never feel desensitized by what happened that night.

As a huge live music fan, it’s so disheartening to process how people died innocently listening to their favorite artists. As someone who grew up 15 minutes from the suburb Travis Scott is from and grew up watching the Kardashians and listening to Drake, it’s so surreal to think about the nightmare that was that concert. This devastation hit close to home to so many people in so many different ways and will continue to impact thousands of people for the foreseeable future.

A day that started out as my first time working a major music festival turned out to be one of the deadliest concerts in U.S. history. But with all that being said, I feel so incredibly fortunate to have been able to safely come out. I feel so incredibly guilty for being unaware of the catastrophe as it happened in the moment. I feel so somber that people lost their lives at an event they just wanted to consume the art at. And mostly, I feel so incredibly heartbroken for those who lost their loved ones at this event.

In the aftermath, I’m still struggling to find the balance of overconsuming media coverage of the concert and protecting my feelings from being overexposed to the tragedy I lived through.

Everyone lives in their own reality, and it will take different amounts of time and methods to digest what happened at Astroworld. To everyone who was there, how much or little you’re feeling is valid, and I hope you are able to heal from the experience.

To everyone personally impacted by the deaths, I am so sorry for your loss and so sorry you are experiencing this. No one should attend a music festival and not make it home. 

Through and through, everyone please take care.

[email protected]

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