Since another Jesuit is not replacing me in Las Vegas, at this time, I committed myself when I moved to Spokane to a return trip for the first week of each month. And so it was that Providence had me in the city on the day of the horrific events of October 1. The whole valley was in shock and disbelief at what occurred: a terrible, senseless tragedy.
But as one of my Las Vegas friends put it:
Grace: In the thousands
Consider what has happened since:
Long lines of people waiting to give blood. One friend of mine waited four hours.
People dropping off food and water for those in the lines.
People bringing cases upon cases of water bottles to the five hospitals where the injured were taken.
Hundreds of prayer vigils – in churches, synagogues, mosques, street corners, and in neighborhoods. A friend of mine and I went to Guardian Angel Cathedral on Monday evening for a very prayerful and heart-felt inter-religious service.
A remembrance park with grass and trees was set up in the downtown area in four days!
Hotels, on and off the strip, provided free rooms for families of those who were injured in the attack. Hotel staffs worked extra shifts.
Doctors and nurses worked round the clock in an effort to tend to the wounded. In 40 minutes, Kevin Menes, the senior doctor on duty at Sunrise Hospital, saw about 150 patients.
Grief counselors came out in force and volunteered their time.
The GoFundMe account, started by the Clark County Commission Chairman, had raised $8.4 million dollars by the morning of October 4.
And the many acts of heroism at the time of the shooting: people were taken to hospitals in vans and pick-up trucks; police and firefighters and EMTs risked their lives to get people to safety; cab drivers, too, arrived and drove the injured away from the danger; the ex-Marine who commandeered a truck and got people away; and many more selfless acts.
As my driver took me up Las Vegas Boulevard, from the south, on the way to the airport on October 7, we saw billboard after billboard, each with the words “Las Vegas” but with a different third word, like: “Strong,” “Resilient,” and “Unity.” When we came to the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign we saw families heading in the direction of the 58 white crosses that an Illinois man had installed at the base of the sign commemorating those who had been killed.
The overwhelming support in the Vegas Valley for those immediately affected by the tragedy has given many a whole new way of looking at Las Vegas. The valley does have close to 2 million residents: families raising their children just like any other city. No one should view the city just from the standpoint of the Strip any longer. It is a city of loving, caring, and compassionate people, as well.
(My gratitude to John Laub, who has lived in Las Vegas most of his life, for his contribution to this article.)
Fr. Max Oliva, S.J.