Cincinnati Honors Victims Of 1979 Concert Tragedy

Officials in Cincinnati, Ohio have erected a permanent memorial to the victims of The Who concert disaster in 1979.

The band’s show in the city on 3 December, 1979 was marred by tragedy when 11 concert goers were killed in a crush at the Riverfront Coliseum venue. The concert was a sellout, with 18,348 tickets sold. The majority of these, 14,770, were unassigned general admission tickets that were first-come, first-served. The tragedy was the subject of a book, “Are The Kids All Right? The Rock Generation And Its Hidden Death Wish”, as well as a second-season episode of WKRP in Cincinnati called “In Concert”. It also inspired scenes in the film “Pink Floyd—The Wall”, whose 1982 premiere was attended by the Who’s Pete Townshend.

Relatives of the victims gathered on Thursday, exactly 36 years after the disaster, to light candles and watch as Mayor John Cranley unveiled a tribute plaque at the site, which is now the U.S. Bank Arena.

“It’s a sad, historic occasion,” Cranley declared. “I believe in music, I believe in progress, but we can’t move forward without remembering…Music binds us. It ties generations together and is always there in good times and bad. We need the music to continue to play in Cincinnati.”

Concert goer David Eavey, who was 11 years old when he was caught in the terrifying crush, adds to, “I waited 35 years from that night to see this (memorial)… (The concert was) chaos, a mess, a nightmare, something that never should’ve happened.”

The tragedy led to a reform of local laws to instigate better crowd control measures, and Mary Lou Heck, whose 19-year-old son Dave was killed at the concert, hopes the tragedy helped prevent other disasters.

“It’s hard to come back here,” she explains. “It’s great that they remember after all these years. People think you forget, but you don’t… Maybe the fact that it happened saved a lot of other lives.”