Shoppers bombarded the doors of a Walmart on Black Friday, and it killed this employee.

Did you ever hear about this man's death?

Thanksgiving is traditionally a day that we take to be with our families and reflect on all the good in our lives.

It's also become a starting line for a race that retailers hope we'll opt into — the race to get the best deals and throw our money their way in the service of showing our families a "nice" Christmas or other winter holiday.


The fervor is real. Image by Powhusku via Wikimedia Commons.

Some people take part in these rituals as a kind of consumer tradition, and on the surface, it's not that bad. After all, if they're enjoying themselves and saving some money and not hurting anybody, who really cares? And that's mostly a good point.

Except sometimes people do get hurt.

Because crowd control is a combination of an art and a science and because turnout can be unpredictable, dangling an enticingly cheap deal to consumers without regard for safety can result in tragedy for shoppers and workers alike.

It cost Jdimytai Damour his life in 2008.

Damour had just been hired through a temp agency to work in the Walmart stock room. His friends recall him as a "gentle giant," and "always lively." They used to call him "Jimbo."

Early that Black Friday morning at the Valley Stream, New York, Walmart store, one of the security guards hired for the event didn't show up. So the store manager called Damour up to man the front doors — even though Damour had no crowd training. The manager wanted a big guy up there. One co-worker recalled Damour saying, as the crowd grew frantic outside the doors, that he really did not want to be there.

Seemingly caught under the crush of feet and the door that was pushed completely off of its encasement when an army of shoppers overwhelmed barricades, Damour was reportedly trying to help a struggling pregnant woman when he was trampled. He was unable to be resuscitated by the time help arrived and was pronounced dead shortly after 6:00 a.m.

This isn't just a weird incident, either. Situations like these can be inherently unsafe.

Though Damour was caught in the stampede, the cause of his death was actually not internal injuries, but asphyxiation. How? There's a phenomenon called "crowd crush," explained in-depth in The New Yorker, which may to be blame. When bodies pack too tightly together and become almost a giant single mass that ebbs and flows as one, it can create conditions that squeeze your chest area to the extent that breathing becomes impossible. How does a crowd get so bad so quickly?

Humans in crowds communicate worse than ants.

Unlike ants and other animals that have developed internal systems for the front of their crowds to communicate with the rear of their crowds, for all of our technology, human beings have no such system. So putting ourselves in the midst of huge crowds is taking a big risk — we humans are bad at crowd behavior and many security companies hired to manage crowds aren't all that savvy about it either. When pushing begins, counter-pushing is inevitable, and in the wrong conditions, it can result in a kind of human wave. The force created from that is nearly impossible for a single person to counteract or extract themselves from, and if they fall and end up under feet ... well, may fate have mercy.

Here's a local news report detailing what happened to Jdimytai Damour.

So what does the public need to know in order to stay safe?

1. If you can avoid Black Friday shopping, why not? You'll be one less person adding to a crowd that can be unpredictable, you will have zero risk of injury due to a store that didn't take proper precautions, and your family will be happier with your presence than they will be with "stuff."

2. If you DO go, keep in mind crowd dynamics. Don't pack together too tightly. Don't push or push back. If you need to get out of a big crowd, it's easiest to get out by going in the direction the crowd is, but inching toward the perimeter.

3. I know most people out there won't find themselves in this situation on Friday. But if things start to get dicey (in any crowd crush), keep your elbows out and up to try to ensure your ribcage won't get crushed. Try like hell not to fall — hold on to someone if you start to feel faint. If you do fall, protect your head.

4. If you want to shop, go ahead and shop. Just watch out for others and help others and keep in mind what the giving spirit is really about.

May we all have a safe and happy time with our family and friends throughout the season!

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

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Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

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A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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