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=====The Flyby=====

In the days after TheChanges, therianthropes could do no wrong. Those who had transformed were treated like celebrities or even superheroes. But their reign atop public opinion came crashing down as a poorly-planned gesture of celebration turned fatal on the stroke of the new year.

===Event Information===


{{image style="center" alt="[image]" title="Keith Haring Illustrates The Flyby, by Orion Sandstorrm" url="images/Sandstorrm_-_haring-flybysmall.gif"}}
//The Flyby, illustrated in the style of
[[WikiPedia:Keith_Haring Keith Haring]], by OrionSandstorrm.//

>>**Date:** [[TheWednesdayRule Wednesday]], Jan. 1, 1997
~- **Era:** EraNationOnTheBrink
**Location:** Times Square, New York City, NY, USA
**Also Known As:** the New Year's Flyby, the New Year's Panic, the Times Square Massacre, The Stampede
**Major Characters:** GroupTheFlybyThree


The crowd in Times Square on New Year's Eve was hardly of record size; apocalyptic fears, heavy police presence and/or fresh memories of the military lockdown kept many at home. But the turnout was certainly still comfortably in the half-million range, sprawling over the usual dozens of city blocks -- quite a few folks figured that if the world was going to end, they might as well go out having fun.

The music was loud and the atmosphere rich, but there was also a palpable tension in the air. The authorities were out in force, fearing further incidents along the lines of the EventLosAngelesRiots. Religious protesters lurked at the edges of the crowds, and their signs asked the questions none of the partiers would voice: Had the two weeks of craziness since TheChanges been some sort of prelude to Armageddon? Was anything going to happen with the changing of the year?

The ball started dropping on schedule. The crowd counted down ... the timer hit zero ... the fireworks went off. As people realized that they hadn't died in a hail of brimstone or a plague of locusts, the dancing and the cheering started in earnest.

But then, the cheers turned to screams of panic on one side of Times Square. Revelers looked up to see three dragons, belching lances of flame into the air, roaring over the music and swooping almost within claw's reach of the crowd. It was quite a spectacle, but any thought that it might have been a scheduled part of the festivities immediately vanished when police turned spotlights on the flying figures, started shouting orders over megaphones, and even fired a few warning shots.

The dragons' first pass caused no actual harm. However, between their appearance and the police reaction, the crowd in the main square immediately began panicking and scrambling for cover.

What happened next depends greatly on whose side of the story you listen to. The police report said that the three dragons (a red, a blue, and their leader, a silver) reacted to their verbal warning with hostility and turned around to attack people. Some eyewitnesses said the silver dragon, apparently blinded by a spotlight, lost control and tried to land in the middle of the crowd. The dragons themselves said the silver wheeled around to avoid police gunfire and the other two followed suit in an effort to stick together. Video evidence was ambiguous enough to support all three theories. Whatever the truth, their sudden movement back toward the center of the festivities caused the motion of the crowd to reverse and a huge wave of bodies to collide on the ground.

Once the shooting began in earnest -- again, stories differ as to the timing -- the authorities wounded at least two of the dragons, who scattered and flew out near ground level. (The police said they opened fire because the dragons were roaring and diving, further threatening the crowd; the dragons claimed that they split up once the red got shot and bellowed in pain, and they flew low because there was no time to gain altitude.) Between the gunfire and the dragons' motions, the crowd was in total chaos. People began fleeing in virtually random directions, and accumulated momentum pushed a wave of bodies over anyone who hit the ground for cover. To make matters worse, as a surge of people tried to escape around and through one of the large central stages, its rigging yielded under human pressure and collapsed, sending a shower of metal, spotlights, and live wires toward the ground.

With the dragons gone, the square began to empty in a more controlled fashion -- but the damage was done. Many inebriated, poorly placed and young attendees were left trampled on the ground. Some revelers lay unmoving beneath the fallen structures, and others lay charred by electric current. Emergency response units had to deal with crowd control before they could even get into the area to provide medical attention. By the time the situation was finally under control, 10 people lay dead or fatally wounded; three more would later die in the hospital.

==Immediate Reaction==

The carnage, captured on live TV, immediately blanketed the airwaves. An APB was put out for the dragons almost as soon as they had left the square. They quickly gained altitude and evaded ground-based pursuit; by the time aerial reinforcements arrived, the three were nowhere to be found. Within 10 minutes, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani declared a citywide state of emergency (the [[EventLosAngelesRiots rioting]] earlier in December had primed disaster response plans), and an immediate curfew went into effect.

Meanwhile, first responders were still struggling to reach and stabilize all the injured. Over 300 people were rushed to area hospitals with varying degrees of injury, clogging emergency rooms; uncounted hundreds were triaged, treated and released on the scene. Even more were allegedly helped by three human mages who had been in the center of the festivities when chaos broke out -- until a four-way argument developed between them, police, fire personnel, and EMTs on live TV. The mages -- later coined "the other Flyby Three" by some pundits -- retreated from the scene amid threats of arrest and mixed crowd reaction.

Across the United States, other cities' celebrations were immediately thrown into uncertainty: could a similar incident happen to them as well? East Coast cities, already past the stroke of midnight and in the midst of heavy partying, largely held their collective breaths and let the events continue -- although Washington, D.C. did start immediately dispersing their crowd. Worried about an echo of the riots, many cities in later time zones did cancel their local countdowns, although others (especially in the mountain West and the West Coast) cautiously proceeded after it became clearer that the New York confrontation was an isolated incident. Still sensitive about being Ground Zero of the religious rioting, Los Angeles instituted a curfew long before midnight; San Francisco's celebration proceeded as planned, although CharacterDennisRedwing was quietly disinvited as a safety precaution.

Overnight, the mood got ugly.

Outrage trumped regret in the media spotlight -- especially since the three dragons responsible had apparently vanished. On the morning talk shows, vocal anti-theri commentators were already labeling the incident a terrorist attack and shouting for justice. Prominent among these was the aunt of one of the victims -- a Brookhaven Town Council member and deeply conservative Christian -- whose on-air breakdown and lament of "how could we let those beasts kill her?" quickly became an iconic moment.

Thousands of protesters gathered at Times Square even before authorities had finished cleaning the scene. Police reluctantly let the protest into one side of the square, where a memorial to the victims was erected.

Across the country, a number of theris were publically attacked -- and a few killed -- in what seemed to be retributive strikes; a few others fought off their attackers, leaving more humans dead. The media was quick to draw a link between these incidents and the Flyby, though police would later track them to a white-power group that had been making plans to attack at the first sign of theri racial war.


Under enormous popular and political pressure, New York prosecutors announced on Jan. 3 that they would seek the indictment of the "Flyby Three" for 12 counts each of first-degree murder (the last victim would die a week later) -- and confirmed that they would seek the death penalty. Nonhumans, seeing the incident as a tragic accident (or the dragons as victims of police aggression), were outraged at the overreaction; many humans were equally outraged that the still-missing culprits had apparently disappeared using shapeshifting or magic and might not be held accountable for their actions.

The next day, CharacterDennisRedwing called a press conference. He said that the three dragons had contacted him, saying that they were horrified by what had happened and they wanted to turn themselves in -- but were afraid to do so while they were being treated like serial killers, and wanted to negotiate to ensure they didn't face a death sentence. This set up the standoff of EventRedwingVsTheFBI; with that failure of diplomacy, the Three reportedly fled the country, and weren't even seen again for several years. They never did return to the United States for trial, a lasting and bitter disappointment to the victims' families.

Only a week after the deaths, EventTheMeeting, with its threat of civil war, would eclipse The Flyby's political and cultural impact -- though The Flyby retained its symbolic importance for a decade or more (as seen e.g. in CulturaliaOverTheHorizon's lyrics). There was a brief flash of renewed interest in 2005, when the state finally announced it would no longer seek the death penalty, in a long-belated and explicitly political maneuver that changed nothing -- the Three had long since abandoned any plan of returning to the U.S. -- and generated a great deal of shouting and recrimination.

The impromptu memorial in Times Square was fiercely defended by its creators for the better part of a year, until the city installed an eternal flame and a large granite slab engraved with the names of the victims. The official memorial became one of the square's major fixtures, garnering hundreds of fresh flowers and remembrances every day.

Since 1997, every New Year's party in Times Square has featured a scheduled moment of silence amid the festivities to remember The Flyby's victims.


//All times are local//
~- **12:00 a.m.:** The dragons take their first and second passes; police open fire; the stage collapses; the dragons begin their escape.
~- **12:01 a.m.:** Authorities issue orders via loudspeaker for all uninjured civilians to evacuate the area, and start trying to halt the live broadcasts of the event.
~- **12:03 a.m.:** Badly overwhelmed on-site paramedics, and three human mages who quickly begin working as a loose team, start aiding the injured, ultimately saving many lives.
~- **12:04 a.m.:** Last confirmed sighting of GroupTheFlybyThree, as two separate eyewitnesses spot the dragons reuniting above the city and descending onto a rooftop.
~- **12:06 a.m.:** First police aerial unit arrives on the scene (a helicopter that was already in flight); does not report any dragon sightings, though search is hampered by cloud cover and by lack of knowledge of dragons' whereabouts.
~- **12:08 a.m.:** Local state of emergency declared.
~- **12:09 a.m.:** Two medical helicopters arrive -- the first of the backup emergency response units to reach the center of the disaster -- although they are unable to land for another two minutes as crowds are pushed back to create room.
~- **12:12 a.m.:** Final live-broadcasting television crew is removed from the square (though other media would surreptitiously remain, including a New York Times photographer who managed to stay for another 20 minutes, and ultimately would win a Pulitzer Prize for her work).
~- **12:16 a.m.:** The first of the ground response teams finally arrive at Times Square on foot, after fighting the evacuating crowds. A path is not cleared for vehicular traffic for almost 10 more minutes.
~- **12:24 a.m.:** A street is finally cleared from outside the crowd zone through to the square, and police block all traffic along it to allow a steady stream of ambulances (and whatever else can be pressed into service) to transport the worst of the wounded to a nearby hospital.
~- **12:26 a.m.:** At the request of the reinforcement EMTs, and over the objections of the first-response EMTs, police demand the three mages leave the scene. A number of the victims whose lives they saved protest, and several other victims counter-protest, with other groups of authorities taking both sides. This leads to a brief and chaotic debate settled by their voluntary departure.
~- **12:31 a.m.:** The NYPD issues an APB (with few details, which are later fleshed out) for GroupTheFlybyThree, who are by now suspected to have escaped New York City, either by flying through thick clouds or by magical means.
~- **12:34 a.m.:** Police finally completely secure the square.
~- **12:45 a.m.:** Evacuation of the wounded proceeds; those with less-critical injuries are by now being directed to one of several overflow hospitals around the city.
~- **1:00 a.m.:** Subdued New Year's celebrations begin in the Central time zone (and in other time zones as the night ticks on).
~- **2:38 a.m.:** With the last of the seriously injured on their way to a hospital.
~- **7:20 a.m.:** Though a number of victims' relatives and protesters have been breaking curfew all night to linger in the blocks surrounding Times Square, with dawn they regroup and march back toward the scene of the tragedy. Police ultimately allow them to take over one side of the square, where they set up the first of the memorials to the fallen.

===Further Reading===

==Story Appearances==
{{category header="0" col="4" only="Story,Culturalia"}}
==Story Excerpts==

~"x." - x

==Other Associated Pages==
{{category header="0" col="4" exclude="Story,Culturalia"}}

===Other Information===


Ultimately, history would accept the dragons' version of the story -- that it was not a deliberate attack -- and the initial outrage would fade away, but in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, there were all too many people willing to seize on the incident as proof that the inhabitants of the new world really did want to do away with the old. It's not at all accurate to call The Flyby "TTU's 9/11," but the live footage and the following days generated a lot of the same sort of trauma and recrimination. You could see it in the haunted eyes of theris as they watched the footage: //The other shoe just dropped.//

The general backlash against theris undoubtedly would have reached an even higher pitch had CharacterDennisRedwing not personally stepped in. His appeal for calm actually went a long way toward easing the popular rage over the deaths, but would only inflame the political response -- and place himself at the center of it. The subsequent [[EventRedwingVsTheFBI standoff]] and EventTheMeeting would be decisive in reframing the battle. In a way, he martyred himself to save the Three.

Historians still debate whether this was a good thing (for theris, and for the world at large). Some say the process crystallized the question of how theris should be treated, rather than letting it simmer for months into a toxic stew, and once that fundamental issue was out in the open (and the threat of war was averted) it was easier to make the case for equality. Others argue that Redwing's universal respect and immense media influence were therianthropes' most valuable assets at the time, and he could have done more good in the long run had he turned in the perpetrators, distanced theris from the tragedy and let the Three be scapegoated as individuals.

No matter which of those arguments is correct, one thing is for certain: TTU would have turned out a very different place had he chosen not to intercede.

==Writing Tips==

Although The Flyby wasn't the utterly polarizing event that EventTheMeeting would become, it was still a dramatic turning point in TTU's early history: the first time that a theri was unambiguously responsible for the death of a human. That, plus the high profile of the event and the terrifying nature of the live footage, hit the nation like a sledgehammer.

There was no shortage of victims and eyewitnesses to be interviewed in the days after the event, and the unceasing coverage would encourage an unease almost bordering on paranoia -- even among those who had no problems with theri-human relations. Redwing's high-profile pleas for calm were initially well-received, but the news for theris would only get worse as the political battle started to spiral out of control.

In short, The Flyby was a decisive start to the era of EraNationOnTheBrink, and should be written accordingly. Stories that start before New Year's and end after it should give that turning point the attention it deserves. Even those who were physically unaffected by the tragedy had to deal with a major emotional impact.

Also note: The Flyby, for all its impact, has had virtually no stories or culturalia written about it. There is a great deal of potential here waiting to be mined.


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