One year ago, Tré Pixley fell to the ground in the middle of the crowd crush during Travis Scott’s set at Astroworld Festival. Compressed by people from above and below, he remained trapped for two songs, until two strangers helped him escape.
The following day, he posted a video of young people at the Houston festival screaming for their lives, which quickly went viral.
The crowd crush killed 10 people, three of whom were minors. The youngest who died was just 9 years old.
“My friends and I were just in shock for months after,” Pixley said via text. “To this day, large crowds make [me] very uncomfortable. Whereas before, I was never worried about large crowds.”
Other clips from the festival show unconscious bodies being crowdsurfed out, an ambulance stuck in the sea of concertgoers, and hordes of people being compressed together as Scott rages onstage.
Then, just last week came the horrifying news that over 150 young people, mostly young women, out for Halloween in Seoul had been killed in a crowd crush. Similar horrifying videos of dead bodies laid out in rows, people desperately attempting CPR on victims, and images of the hundreds of people trapped in a tiny alley filled social media. All of it brought Pixley right back to that terror last year in Houston.
The 23-year-old knows exactly what it’s like to be surrounded by a terrified, swaying crush of people. A video from the point of view of someone in the Seoul crowd was particularly horrifying for him to see.
“Just being that compact in one place for so long,” Pixley said. “Barely being able to stand up straight because the crowd keeps shifting back and forth. Barely being able to breathe. And feeling the crushing of my lungs while just so compacted with tons of other bodies. Just no space at all. I felt that stress in the back of my throat while watching that video.”
Pixley was in his last year of college and working part-time when he went to Astroworld with some friends. Most of the victims were also in their 20s, and in college or planning on beginning their careers at the time.
This past year, Pixley told BuzzFeed News, has been a blur.
“Emotionally, it has been just beyond sad,” Pixley said. “Knowing everything that had come to surface after the event was pretty traumatic.”
Immediately after the tragedy, Pixley spoke with many outlets, including BuzzFeed News. He said it was an overwhelming experience and started giving interviews only through text messages in order to maintain some level of calm amid the flurry of inquiries.
“Honestly the media was a lot,” he said. “Many media outlets were trying to get information from me for about 2-3 months after the event. I also was in school at the time, so it was just very very stressful on my end.”
Because of the trauma from Astroworld, he took the spring semester of school off, continuing to work at a small engine mechanic shop.
Physically, he suffered damage to his chest because of the intense and prolonged crushing from the crowd. Pixley saw a chiropractor for about three months in order to correct the issues.
Emotionally, he leaned on his friends who were at the festival, and opened up to his family to deal with the fallout. Pixley said he did not use any of the mental health resources Scott shared in the aftermath.
“I felt like I had a pretty good support system on it with the help of my friends and family,” he said.
Crowd crushes have become increasingly topical, with one in an Indonesian soccer stadium killing 135 on Oct. 1, and then the Seoul disaster becoming the latest international tragedy. Videos titled “how to survive a crowd crush” have gone viral on TikTok — but none of them talk about how to emotionally recover after being trapped in one.
But Pixley is doing his best. One year after Astroworld, he is working at a hospital and at the engine shop, hoping to become a nurse in the future. He went back to school after his semester off, using the summer to catch up on his academics.
He’s even managed to attend a few concerts with relatively small crowds at intimate venues. He says he’s not angry anymore, but he thinks about his fellow survivors and the families of victims.
“I just hope the others that were there and had a very similar experience to me are doing okay,” he said. “As well as hope the families of those who passed are also doing well, healing and being taken care of.”