We arrived in Vegas on Sunday afternoon, Oct 1, and we went to a show that night at the MGM at 7pm. We came out around 8:30pm. A few hours later, unfortunately, history was made…
When the shooting happened, Sel and I were already in our hotel room at the Elara Hilton. I was asleep. But we’d traveled to the Vegas with a group of 10 other friends. A few of our group were still out on the strip when the shooting started, and they were staying at the Excalibur, which is pretty close to Mandalay Bay. We didn’t know at the time what was going on, just that something was happening up near Mandalay Bay and there was an active shooter on the strip, as the news headlines said.
Sel rang one of the girls, and while they were talking, our friend started saying “oh shit, everyone’s running”, and suddenly Sel couldn’t hear her, she could just hear people shouting. She woke me up and we went down into the lobby to try and meet them so they could stay in our room. As we reached the lobby, people started running back toward us and the elevators yelling, “shit, he’s coming! he’s coming!” We quickly turned and jumped back into the elevator and a couple that ran back toward us literally dove into the elevator and smashed the buttons as hard as they could to get the elevator moving. The girl was hysterical, and said they were at the festival and had seen their friend get shot. We hightailed it to our room on the 34th floor and locked the door.
In hindsight, the guy was never anywhere near us. In fact, he never left his hotel room at Mandalay Bay. But those few minutes are possibly the most freaked out I’ve ever been. So to try to guess what it was like for the people who were actually caught up in the crossfire, and physically, mentally, and emotionally experiencing everything that was happening at the festival is well beyond my imagination.
The rest of our group who were out made it to a nearby casino/hotel and were in lockdown for most of the night, but they were safe, and once we knew everyone was safe, we turned our attention to the news. We watched it unfold on the screen while seeing a mass of flashing lights, and hearing a ridiculous amount of sirens below us out the window. It was still hard to put the two events together.
Monday morning and the strip was incredibly eerie. As you would expect, the mood was sombre. Several eateries had signs saying they were either closed due to the events of the night before, or they’d be opening later than usual. We assumed that was because as soon as everything went down, they either fled or were put on lockdown and didn’t get a chance to clean up and shut up shop properly.
I got the feeling that people around us didn’t know how to react, or how to act. When you consider that most people staying around the strip likely aren’t locals, it’s a strange feeling. Especially We have zero connection to Vegas. This is where we’ve come twice now just to get caught up in the lights, the atmosphere, the attractions & shows, and generally just have a good time. This is the place where reality is supposed to disappear for a few days.
Well reality hit us all like a tonne of bricks.
No matter where we’ve gone over the last two days, it feels like the two broken windows from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay have been sticking out like sore thumbs and looking down over the strip. We went on a tour out to Hoover Dam yesterday, and going past on the bus, we could see the detailed outline of the shattered glass. To think he was standing there with a gun pointed out the window less than two days was sobering.
But the messages that have lit up all around Vegas since Monday morning, plus the attitude of the locals, employees and the police has been quite incredible.
On Monday morning, every casino used their electronic billboard to tell people where they could donate blood, and who to contact about loved ones. It then switched to messages about thoughts and prayers for everyone involved, and now a message of thanks.
On Tuesday we thanked a few police officers who were standing on the strip. They were humble, but they were regretful that they didn’t reach him sooner, despite the incredibly legitimate claims that the first responders did a helluva job in stopping this from becoming an even worse tragedy then it already was. The police presence around the strip since has been exceptional. Not because they’re watching people with suspicion, or fearing another attack, but I personally believe the aim is to make everyone feel safe again.
This tragedy has given me a permanent connection to Vegas. An unfortunate one, but one that has also given me a perspective I didn’t expect. Whenever a tragedy occurs around the world, I used to cringe when I saw a flood of hashtags… #prayforthis #prayforthat, and it felt as though people jumped on the easy bandwagon; ‘I’ve done my part for that tragedy.’ But in such close proximity to the receiving end of the tweets and prayers and hashtags coming from around the world, from a very broad perspective, I can kind of see how it helps people and a community to know that everyone is thinking of them, even if it is a 5 second social media message.
So, as with anything as tragic and as unexpected as this, it’s a timely reminder to remember not to take your life for granted. Enjoy every moment, love your friends and family, and don’t sweat the small stuff.