This is my account of the events that took place on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
First, some back story. I arrived in Las Vegas last week to attend a friend’s wedding and to visit for the first time since leaving at the beginning of August of last year. It was to be the second leg of the US portion of this trip I’m on.
The reason why I stuck around in the US for as long as I did was because my mom’s birthday is October 1. Given that the wedding was on September 30, I wasn’t sure exactly what to do at first. I didn’t want to miss the wedding, but neither did I want to be traveling on my mom’s birthday, even if it was to see her. This put me in a difficult position until I had a thought: Mom should fly to Vegas to visit for the weekend while I was there so that I could attend the wedding but still be with her for her birthday. She agreed that it could work.
And so, plans were made, plane tickets were purchased, and, when the time came, she arrived.
Fast forward to Sunday evening, the day of her birthday. When I lived in Las Vegas (from July 2011 to August 2016), I got together with my aunts, uncles, and cousins on Sundays for dinner on a semi-regular basis. It’s a convenient day for most of the family who lives there, and that day was no different, especially given the special occasion of Mom’s birthday.
Mom and I wanted to see a show while we were there, and Sunday was the best day for us to see a show. The timing worked the best, and it was the day of her birthday. So as not to conflict with the dinner, we purchased tickets for 9:30pm to see Blue Man Group at the Luxor Hotel and Casino. After dinner, we said our goodbyes and headed down to Las Vegas Blvd. to see the show.
It was a great show. It’s laugh-out-loud-funny at multiple points with good music and some pretty amazing visuals. It’s definitely worth checking out should you find yourself in Las Vegas and wanting to see good, family friendly entertainment.
When the show ended, at around 11:00pm, we were in good spirits. Even when a woman said over the loudspeaker, “Due to an emergency in the Luxor, we ask that everyone stay in their seats until further notice,” we were more confused than afraid.
It wasn’t long before people started looking at their phones to see what was going on. Details at the time weren’t entirely certain or reliable, but we knew it wasn’t good. None of us in that theater could have imagined that we were directly next to the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, a shooting that occurred while we were being entertained by three men with their faces painted blue.
As we started to get a picture of what happened outside, many of the 150 people or so in the theater were justifiably afraid. There were reports of multiple shooters and no certainty of what exactly was going on or when it would end. I got nervous for a few minutes, myself. Eventually, I realized that being locked in the Blue Man Theater was a safe place, even despite how close we were to Mandalay Bay, where the gunman was.
Shortly after this announcement, the employees of the show began doing what they could to make all of us comfortable. They gave us access to the backstage restroom. They brought bananas and water. These were small gestures, but given the circumstances, these gestures went a long way.
In the end, we were on lock-down in the theater for about five-and-a-half hours. We didn’t get much sleep. Throughout this time, though, Mom and I were in contact with my two aunts so that they knew that we were okay. Upon being let out of the theater, around 4:30am, we were free to go. However, we weren’t allowed to access the parking deck where we parked our rental car because of the road being blocked off and the continuing police investigation. My aunt, who was unable to sleep, came and picked us up. She took us back to her house where we were staying. We were safe. It was the end of a long night, but I know that, compared to many, we got off easy.
I am writing this from New York City. To be completely honest, I really wasn’t all that excited to come here. It’s not that I don’t want to be here. Rather, it’s that I’m still trying to process everything that happened. Coming to an unfamiliar city in which I don’t really know anyone at a point when I want to be around familiar faces wasn’t exactly the best timing. The plans to come here, though, have been finalized for weeks. Thus, here I am, around a group of people I don’t know, trying to make sense of such a senseless act of violence.
So I write this post with a heavy heart. I admit that I have some mixed feelings about the city of Las Vegas itself. I wonder on occasion about the future and how, as I look back, I’ll view the five years I spent there. Despite these uncertain feelings, Las Vegas is a part of my story, and so are many people within the city’s boundaries. I have great family and some amazing friends who still live there. All of them were affected by this tragedy in some way. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that any person who has lived in the city for longer than a few months probably knows someone who was impacted.
I don’t know that I’ve truly done justice to the horrific events of that evening. My account, despite my relative proximity to the events themselves, pales in comparison to the harrowing stories of those at the concert. I hope I don’t come off as tone-deaf or insensitive to those who were killed and injured. At the least, I know I haven’t said exactly what I wanted to say, nor did I come close to saying what really needs to be said.
The reason for falling short of ‘what needs to be said’ is that, frankly, I don’t know what those words are. There are no magic words that can bring healing to a city and its residents who are reeling, broken, and hurting. I can say that I’m praying for my former home, yet even that seems so trite. I can try to understand why this happened, why the good and omnipotent God of the universe, in whom I believe, would allow yet another tragedy to take place in this country. But I don’t understand. I don’t know that I ever will. Some may say it’s His judgment. Some may say it’s because He doesn’t actually exist and that I’m foolish for believing in an invisible, bearded man in the sky. I admit my struggles with faith, especially at such a difficult time.
But I still believe. Even if I don’t know the purpose, I trust that there still is a purpose.
The response in the 24 hours after the attack was overwhelming. Lines for hours with people waiting to give blood. Innumerable acts of kindness. Generosity with finances to help the families of the victims. It was a view of a city that truly came together in the face of an unspeakable tragedy. This is to say nothing of the courage displayed by those during the attack and immediately afterward.
I won’t say that these acts of benevolence are exclusively the reason something as heinous as this is allowed to happen. Again, I really don’t understand. However, these acts give me assurance that God exists, evidence that He is still in this world, and hope that He hasn’t completely removed His hand.
With belief and hope in mind, I pray that God would bring healing to those who were injured and peace to the families and friends of those who were lost.
Stay strong, Vegas.