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Crowds Flee Times Square After Mistaking Motorcycles Backfiring for Gunshots

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  • Footage on social media shows crowds of people fleeing from Times Square on Tuesday after believing they were in the midst of an active shooting.
  • New York police officials said that the crowds mistook the sounds of motorcycles backfiring for gunshots.
  • Tensions are high across the nation after a weekend of mass shootings left at least 31 dead. 
  • The same day as the Times Square incident, shoppers at a Louisiana Walmart experienced their own shooting scare, and a falling sign in a Utah mall sent others running for safety. The following day a mistaken report of a person with a gun at a USA Today office in Virginia sparked a building evacuation.

Times Square Shooting Scare 

After a weekend of mass shootings in the United States, residents in cities all over the country are on edge.

Several videos captured Tuesday night in Times Square show crowds of people running and screaming after hearing what they thought were gunshots.

However, after receiving several 911 calls, New York authorities quickly tweeted, “There is no #ActiveShooter in #TimesSquare.” According to authorities, the sound people heard was actually just motorcycles backfiring. 

Still, the threat felt entirely real for those at the scene and the experience has left the community shaken. Panic set in as stampedes of people climbing over each other moved through the area. Many were screaming and crying in fear, and several briefly became separated from loved ones.

Surveillance footage from inside a Junior’s Cheesecake in Midtown showed guests diving to the ground for cover. 

People Share Their Stories Online

The incident forced several stores to lock their doors. That night’s Broadway performance of To Kill a Mockingbird at the Shubert Theater also came to an early end. Celia Kennan-Bolger, who plays Scout Finch in the production, tweeted that she was giving her last speech in the play when people outside tried to get into the theater.

“This was terrifying for the audience who heard screaming & banging on the doors, so they hid or ran & tried to flee. It was terrifying for us because we didn’t know what was happening or what to do.” 

Other social media users in the area tweeted about their experiences as well. Many described their emotions along with what they did to try and survive. 

The number of people who were injured in the commotion is unclear, though local authorities told NBC New York that the amount is up to 20. The station reported that most who were injured refused medical attention and added that less than six went to the hospital for minor injuries. 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also tweeted about the scare, saying “the panic and fear people felt tonight was all too real. Nobody should have to live in constant fear of gun violence. NOBODY.”

Other Recent Scares

The fear of mass shootings in public spaces has felt more real than ever for many across the nation.

The same day as the scare in New York, shoppers inside of a Louisiana Walmart feared they were in the center of a shooting. At least one person was injured while fleeing the area, the local sheriff’s office told WVLA of Baton Rouge. 

The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office said that there was an initial report of two men shooting, but it appeared there was an altercation between two men where a handgun may have been seen.

“When customers saw the handgun, panic set in, and customers were running and screaming while trying to exit the store,” the sheriff’s office said. “Given the recent events in El Paso and Dayton, and given the initial information we received via 911 calls and witnesses exiting the store, we responded with what we feel is appropriate.”

Another false alarm shook West Valley City, Utah on Tuesday night when a shopping mall was evacuated. Shoppers at the Valley Fair Mall panicked after hearing a loud sound that they also mistook for gunfire. 

However, local police explained that there was no active shooter in a tweet. “People heard a loud bang which was actually the sound of a sign falling,” authorities said. “There is no danger. No one is hurt.” 

USA Today‘s headquarters in McLean, Virginia was also evacuated Wednesday morning after what authorities said turned out to be a mistaken report of a person with a weapon at the suburban Washington office.

Tensions are high after the two recent shootings that hit Texas and Ohio. A gunman opened fire at a crowded Walmart in El Paso on Saturday, killing at least 22 and wounding more than 20 others. The following day, another shooter in Dayton, Ohio opened fire in an entertainment district, killing 9 and wounding several others.

Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murderers or suspected mass murderers who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.

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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot. 
  • So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.

Florida Requires Proof of Residency

Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.

Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it. 

According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents. 

Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers. 

Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited

Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north. 

“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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