Over the weekend, thousands of people and several people dressed as animals were evacuated from the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Chicago after powdered chlorine was released into the hotel’s stairwell during the Midwest Fur Fest convention, a weekend-long meet-up for furries. It’s unclear who exactly released the chlorine, or why, but cops are calling the act “intentional” and investigating it as a crime.
Keu, who asked to go by her alias within the community “instead of my real name due to receiving death threats and such,” has been involved with the furry community since 2007 and attended the Midwest Fur Fest — her fifth furry con — as a “Norwegian Lundehund.” She agreed to answer a couple of our questions about her experience.
First off, when and how did you get into furry fandom? Was this your first con?
I got into the furry fandom around 2007; didn’t start selling my artwork until around 2011. I have always been fascinated by animals my entire life. I love my pets dearly. My first convention was Rainfurrest 2013 in Seattle, Washington. Since then, I’ve attended five cons total, including this year’s MFF.
What events were taking place when the incident started?
There was a DJ set going and a lot of people were at the dance or hanging around the lobby suiting. Saturdays are the main party day, so there were a lot of people out.
How did you find out there was a chlorine incident?
My friends and I were outside the hotel at the local Steak ‘n Shake. When we got back, I wanted to go back to our room and get in my fursuit and head back down to the lobby. We waited for the elevator until someone told us that there was a natural gas leak on floor ten, which was the floor we were staying on. We were a lot more scared since it could cause an explosion. About 15 minutes later, the fire alarms went off and we promptly evacuated and headed to a nearby hotel.
Were you forced to evacuate in your costume?
I was actually in my kigurumi, which are baggy pajamas!
What was the mood like? Were people scared? Upset? Did they find it amusing?
More people were amused than frightened. Overhearing in the lobby, we didn’t think it was as serious as it actually was — just the fire department doing things to be safe. It wasn’t until we saw law-enforcement trucks blocking the road to the hotel and a long line of paramedics from neighboring cities did it start to sink in that it was bad.
Were you or any of your friends transported to the hospital because of it?
My friends Hayzel and MixnMatch were sent to the hospital because of it. They are okay now.
Who do you think was responsible for spilling the chlorine? Do you think it was “intentional”?
It definitely had to be intentional. The Hyatt doesn’t have a pool, so there would be no reason that chlorine would end up in a stairwell. Unfortunately, we do not know who is officially responsible.
What’s the aftermath been like? Do you feel like people have been unnecessarily flip about the incident?
Sunday night, a lot of my friends were apprehensive that someone would do something much worse; however, there was a security guard sitting by the stairs where it happened, along with police wandering the hotel, which did make us feel safe. It feels surreal that someone would attempt to physically harm a group of people who aren’t hurting anyone, but there is no way that chlorine would just end up in the emergency stairwells.