It’s difficult to find any clear meaning in the lethal chaos that unfolded at the Astroworld music festival in Houston on Friday night. Eight young people died in a crush between euphoria and panic, and now we want to know how it happened, and where to place blame, and how to prevent it from happening again.

The “how it happened” part feels especially incomprehensible, even for those of us who spend our lives in big crowds. Mass gatherings are intrinsically fragile but relatively stable things. To join one requires a collective step toward the edge of control without stepping over it.

And when we’re talking about a concert, there’s so much to feel on that communal edge: impossibly vivid sensations of happiness, excitement, synchronicity and belonging. After 19 months of pandemic tedium, it makes a lot of sense that about 50,000 people in Texas would want to feel all of those feelings together. And together, their joyful abandon took them over that edge.

Have you ever been close? Nearly a decade ago, I attended a day-long music festival on a campus quad where the crowd rushed the stage during a surprise performance from a superstar. Before I knew it, I found myself under a pile of bodies a half-dozen deep. Then, somehow, as quickly as we had fallen, everyone picked themselves back up and got on with enjoying the music. How — in that unpredictable rush of joy and fear — did the group mind know to ease up and help one another back to their feet? I still don’t know. But comparing it to what happened at Astroworld feels cheap. I got some bruises and a scary memory. I do not know what it means to have my life pressed out of my body.

Another dark question: Who’s responsible for what happened Friday night? Maybe it’s best to start with who isn’t. Before you blame the festival’s audience for being young, remember the deaths that occurred at Altamont back in 1969, then remember the rape and destruction that took place at Woodstock ’99. Before you blame the festival’s music for being rap, remember how 11 young people died in a crush outside of a Who concert in Cincinnati in 1979, then remember how nine people died in the crowd during a Pearl Jam performance in Denmark in 2000. And before you blame the festival’s performers for being too exciting, remember how concert promoters have historically shown a tendency to deflect responsibilities of crowd safety to the musicians onstage — like in a recent documentary about Woodstock ’99, in which the event’s promoters suggest that Limp Bizkit’s performance was responsible for sending their ill-fated festival into bedlam.

Maybe that makes our questions about prevention less ambiguous. All eyes should now shift to Live Nation, the multinational concert promotion behemoth behind Astroworld, as well as more than 40,000 shows and more than 100 other festivals worldwide each year. Live Nation clearly has the resources to improve its music festival infrastructure, and it must.

And although I can’t personally account for Astroworld’s security, paramedics, guest services or general layout, I have attended scores of music festivals over the years — different styles of music, different cities, different crowds of different ages and different sizes. Here’s what a lot of them have in common: They don’t make attendees feel particularly cared for. Waiting areas can feel like holding pens. Bottles of water can cost more than $5. Restroom facilities can range from gross to filthy. And yet, people are expected to respect one another in a space that doesn’t respect them.

Here’s the thing: Most of the time, they do. Maybe they did on Friday night, too. It’s an impossible thing to know for certain, and an impossible thing for the loved ones of those who died to begin to comprehend. But it might not be an impossible thing to prevent in the future, and we obviously owe it to everyone who cares about music to try.