The sound of a motorcycle backfiring created mass panic in New York City’s Time Square, putting a real spotlight on the nation’s anxiety after three mass shootings in less than three weeks.
It was a typical summer night in Times Square the streets were filled with tourists and vendors. People were strolling the streets, enjoying the theatre and busy shopping for souvenirs.
The peaceful Tuesday night was suddenly sent in chaos when a motorcycle backfired sounding far too much like a gunshot. The sound sent hundreds of people screaming and fleeing down side streets and into buildings. People were huddled under storefronts and pounding on doors for help.
Police quickly discovered the origin of the sound was a backfiring motorcycle, but the scene it created was a too real example of the anxiety our nation now lives with in the wake of three mass shootings in California, Texas, and Ohio.
“I imagine, you know, the Baby Boomer era, they knew what to do when there was a bomb siren. And people in California know to stand under a door if there’s an earthquake,” said Jamie Pillet, of Long Island, who was knocked down during the stampede. “Now there is a new danger and an ingrained response. I think that we all, as Americans, sort of know the drill.”
On Wednesday morning in Times Square, Tania Lundh, of Michigan stated that “It isn’t a heightened sense of fear, but of reality.”
Some people on social media claimed that some people screamed “shooter,” sending more people stampeding in fear. Witnesses called it a stampede as people ran away from the area,
In the panic police state that at least 22 people were injured ranging from the age of 12 to 79. One woman broke her wrist and one man fractured his kneecap. Four people reportedly went to the hospital for treatment.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio took to Twitter to tell New Yorkers the scene was safe and to condemn the culture of fear.
“Times Square is safe and secure, but the panic and fear people felt tonight was all too real,” he wrote. “Nobody should have to live in constant fear of gun violence. NOBODY.”
Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chair of psychiatry at Columbia University, told CBS News that the cumulative effects of mass shootings produce high levels of anxiety and fear across the country, even if you’re hundreds of miles away.
“You wouldn’t think so, but it does,” Lieberman explained. “Any type of natural disaster and in this case a violent attack … some people are more resilient … they brush it off … other people are freaked for days, months, or longer.”