It all started with one nutjob with an army’s worth of guns in a hotel suite.
In those moments there was panic amongst the crowds at the concert venue. Those of us outdoors around the Mandalay Bay were completely confused. Were those fireworks? Was that fake gunfire from some nearby filming or show?
The sound of fully automatic gunfire just kept coming. Nobody knew whether to go inside or stay outside. Even the police had no idea. Some officers were running around with guns drawn, shotguns in their hand. Initially all I could do was stand there at the Bus Lobby on the south side of the hotel. Just five minutes previously I was walking down Las Vegas Blvd. across from the concert venue without a care in the world.
But that fear… that feeling of helplessness and chaos… I felt in those moments is not what I’m going to carry with me going forward. Because what I saw in the minutes and hours that followed was nothing short of amazing. What I saw was an entire major American city pull up its pants and start getting back to work and making sure everybody was safe.
A small cluster of us wound up outside the McDonald’s across the street from the Mandalay. We were outside on the patio, still unsure of exactly what we just saw and experienced. We were sharing information as we knew it. We watched every police officer within 50 miles speed north on the Boulevard towards Tropicana Ave, which became the defacto incident center. And we stayed there until the police told us to start walking, and keep walking, south as far as we can go.
People were lined up for hours to give blood. People were bringing blankets, water, sandwiches to the Thomas & Mack Center (the impromptu shelter created a few hours after the shooting). As early as it seemed practical the hotel front desk called my room, asked me if I was ok, and if I needed anything.
One of the County Commissioners set up a GoFundMe page with the modest goal of $500,000. Within an hour .. it may have even been minutes .. it was obvious that the $500,000 goal was not only going to be met, but that this was well on it’s way to even shadowing the Tesla Museum crowdfunding. (as of this writing, it is exceeding $8 million).
Over and over I’m hearing stories, both in the media and just simply word of mouth, of small acts of kindness and unity. Even though everybody seemed “stunned” on Monday people were out and about doing their jobs. The hotels were even getting involved: all the billboards on that famous street had messages of how to help. who to call, and where to go.
“Sin City” came together and was strong at a time when the visitors to this city need a show of strength from not only law enforcement and safety services but just friendly welcoming faces to take our collective minds off of what horrors we experienced, big and small.
This wound will scab over: it’s already started. And this city will be stronger for it, and I feel a sense of pride that my fellow Americans, for all our faults, came together in a time of crisis.
Let’s take this opportunity to realize that we are better together. We can keep everybody warm, fed, and safe. We can all be #VegasStrong.