While we have found only a few of our readers who may have gone to the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas this weekend and were in harm’s way as a 64-year-old white man with reportedly between 10 and 18 weapons opened fire on the crowd from 400 yards away, we can understand the fear, panic and shock that such an incident has caused. (All of the readers we found said via Facebook they are safe.) We know that many events, including many of our own community’s events, are out in the open, vulnerable to such attacks. We know that this country has a disproportionate amount of these kinds of attacks. We know that it is relatively easy for anyone in this country to create an arsenal of weapons, regardless of their mental capacity, potential mental illness or over-the-top political beliefs. Last night’s attack is something organizers of large events have feared would happen for decades, and will now forever be top-of-mind as these kinds of events go forward. Last night’s massacre became the most deadly in the nation’s history, followed closely by the Orlando Pulse massacre only last year.
Orlando was on the minds of at least one father of an 11-year-old daughter, as he was corralled by police into a room as shots were being fired.
“At the moment, I thought of the Orlando shooting because we were all in this room; we didn’t know where this shooter was,” an emotional witness, Brian Claypool, told Robin Roberts of ABC News. “We thought he was going to jump the fence and come in that room and shoot us all.”
During a break in the shooting, Claypool helped police rush everyone out of the room, further away from the shooting.
Publishers of our sister publication in Las Vegas, QLife Media, are in shock over the event, posting on their Facebook page today, “Our hearts and our city are broken today.” They changed their Facebook and website covers to a self-made graphic reminiscent of the OneOrlando campaign after the Pulse Massacre. (We have used the graphic, with permission, as the header of this story.)
“Our hearts and our city are broken today,” publisher Russ White, who lives two blocks away on the Las Vegas Strip, posted to QLife‘s Facebook page. “Some friends were at or near the concert last night. Many friends are checking into work reluctantly, scared, only to find empty casinos. Some still haven’t left work. A few serve as INCREDIBLE LVMPD, local law enforcement, and first responders.”
“Many of the victims last night were visiting our fabulous city for all the entertainment and hospitality that we have to offer,” White continued. “Be strong Las Vegas. Be One Vegas.”
But as the events were unfolding, White was more personal.
“I’m scared to begin scrolling. I know even though I’m safe in bed, I know the news today will be bad. As last night unfolded I heard stories and saw posts that affected friends. Many are horrified, though the are safely home. I don’t know of any losses yet. I won’t know until I begin to scroll,” he wrote.
“The enormity of loss can’t be known yet,” White told QSaltLake. “Names are starting to be made public. We are a community of hospitality and entertainment. Tragedy of this magnitude comes unexpected in the city where the world escapes to have fun.”
“Many friends were attending or working the event,” he continued. “Many more sheltered in place in hotels, kitchens, theaters, and shops unable to leave until the early hours of the morning. Others had to return to work and open up the town this morning — we still have guests to serve. We can’t close.”
White said that many shows will be dark tonight, and operations scaled back.
“But with 44 million visitors every year and a population of 2 million, we are outnumbered by the people who visit Vegas and rely on our community for food, fun, and sadly today, medical attention, comfort, consoling, and for [families and friends of] over 50, bereavement.
Fellow publisher Garrett Pattiani also took to Facebook early in the morning to declare himself safe after people began asking about him, even offering up his universal O-negative blood to anyone who might need it.
Pattiani noted that the line to donate blood at United Blood Services was wrapped completely around the building with a 5-hour wait.
“Went online to make an appointment, but they all seem full,” he wrote. “If you are a gay male, you must [have been] celibate for a year… (wink wink). My doctor friend said that even if you want to give later in the week, that will be great too. I am proud of the response of our community that we have had so many people want to give.”
“As a local who spends a lot of time on the strip, I have always felt safe,” Pattiani told QSaltLake. “Our casinos have so many cameras, police and private security. I never would have thought that a sniper situation would be possible from within a hotel room.”
“I am so deeply saddened by this tragedy,” he continued. “Vegas is a place where the world comes to forget their worries, let loose and have a great time. It doesn’t make sense to have this as a target.”