An Evening {of stampede} in Paris!

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.”- Ernest Hemmingway, A Moveable Feast

“Amen to that!”-Ashish Bhat, A young man who survived the stampede feast.

Le Tourist…

Chateau Versailles

It all started with Louis XIV, the powerful monarch of France who in 1682 moved his palace to Chateau Versailles. Such a grandiose palace eclipsed my pride of Mysore Palace. Well…… no I take that back. Mysore Palace though smaller is still the best {biased pride in me!}.While we are still digressing from the topic, On July 1, 2016 we took a trip to the Palace from the Invalides station, Paris. This blog came in handy. The grand size of the Palace plus the long walks in the palace gardens (almost 8 miles) took a toll on us. We were exhausted and back to Paris around 6pm. At 9pm, there was Germany v Italy Euro 2016 Quarter-Finals live at Paris FanZone. The view was magnificent at Champs-de-Mars {pronounced shans de mars} which is in front of Eiffel Tower(see pic). My fellow tourists (including my wife) were tired and stayed back {wise decision in hindsight} and me being an ardent German football fan, went ahead to watch the match.

View of the fan zone from the top of Eiffel Tower.

No Selfie Stick allowed monsieur…

Three levels of checks, personally hand-crafted to an extent that even selfie stick wasn’t allowed- THAT was the level of security of the FanZone. According to the site, it could accommodate 10,000 people. There were at least 10 screens of different sizes. A few big names like McDonald's , Carlsberg, Coca Cola had a tail-gating party kinda party with photobooth, free face paints, goodies, etc., after all it was fan zone.

The match began and it was really an electrifying atmosphere. There was Italian passion in air along with cigarette smoke and the ground was smeared with patriotism of the Germans along with the beer. Chants of “Itaalia!, Itaalia!, Itaalia!” was countered by “”Deutschlaaaaaaaand!”. I wore a neutral shirt color, didn’t cheer along any of the fans, fearing that choosing a side could attract wild crazy fans. See it for yourself …

Run Forrest Run !!!

Well, OK!!! I have bored you enough painting a picture of the scenario leading to this…The score was 1–1, around the 89th minute, I was pretty engrossed in the match when a wave hit me…I have been hit by a wave before..a wave of water in the Hawaiian beaches or a wave of gusty air at Hawk Hill, San Francisco. This time it was a wave of humans, like a ripple travels through water in a pond. People ran for their lives from the epicenter of ___ (wait for it). I ran, I ran, I ran like my life depended on it...literally! Fear gripped me, PANIC! SHOUTING! SCREAMING! everywhere…… and…Thud!! I fell on the ground.

AFAICR, the person in front of me tripped and fell. I was the second in the dominoes of people. There must have been pack of 5–6 people on me at a time. No time to think, my survival instinct was to get up and run, and I did, only this time avoiding potential fall by running mostly zig-zag.

Out of site, still on mind!

Now, Usain Bolt can run 100 meters in 9.58 seconds because he’s prepared to, he wouldn’t make that run if he’s relaxed and watching a football match!? You get the point! To give credit where it’s due, the fanzone exits were well planned out, with volunteers signalling the exit during the madness. Once I was out of the site, say some 50–60 meters, I got stomach cramps and surprisingly my right thigh was hurting. Not from the run, but it was hurt from the pack of people falling over me. I had read somewhere, the way human body defenses work, Adrenaline, helps you during crisis and only complains when out of danger. Touche!!!

Now walking, I approached a Polize officer . I tried to ask him what the hell just happened, using broken English and body language . “No Informazione, No Informazione” he replied. The whole site was sealed , no Uber driver was ready to pick me up, luckily my AirBnB was a 1.2 kms away from the venue. I decided to walk. During the walk, I called my wife and told her I was fine and would come soon. Many many thoughts swirled in my head , few of them being:

  1. Terrorist opening fire: Europe was already on high alert and had been a target of terrorism in yesteryears. I thought an ISIS shooter had opened fire.
  2. Bomb threat: Quite plausible, so many people, prime location.
  3. What if scenarios.. what if my wife had agreed to join me, poor her..what if I had never come here to watch the match.. what about rest of the Euro trip.

Finale

After I reached my AirBnB, I pulled up the news/twitter which indicated that somebody had set a firecracker which set out a panic and chaos. The news article below has good pics/twitter feed/videos of the incident.

At this time, you must be thinking I’m like Ross after the car backfire , but trust me, it was much more intense. I did not have my entire life flashing nor the feeling of luckiness … but while walking back, I did have an epiphany of life: thinking things I have accomplished, people I met, places I have traveled and the life ahead me! But the incident didn't have any repercussions on rest of my EuroTrip, shit happens, rub it off and move on…and you know they say…What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!

Twitter after the Stampede!
Twitter after stampede