Vegas united: When tragedy struck, the city turned into a community

Hand written messages line the wall in UNLV’s Student Union Ballroom B during a open session for students or people to come for healing and reflection on October 3, 2017.
Photo: Mikayla Whitmore

“I’m off of work at 2. Already made an appointment for the blood bank...what else can I do to help? I can’t just go home.”

That was a Facebook post by Bunkhouse mainstay and local musician Dale Gilbert, but it could have been posted by any number of Las Vegans who felt the urge to help the Route 91 Harvest shooting victims and their families in any way they could—and help in abundance at that.

Like most of us, Gilbert went to social media not only to find out what a mass murderer perched inside a 32nd-floor Mandalay Bay hotel room had wrought upon 22,000 concertgoers—and, ultimately, the rest of us—but to reel at the awfulness of the news and express what he was going to do about it. His post wasn’t the most heart-wrenching or inspiring post on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram—though it was certainly both of those things—but it was symbolic of just how deeply Las Vegans felt compelled to spring into action. For all the awfulness Sunday night, it resulted in one of the most galvanizing displays of unity the city has ever seen, with the people of Las Vegas responding exactly as they should have—with selflessness, eagerness and quickness, from the first responders and medical professionals to our friends and social network.

Family Assistance Center at Convention Center

As the post-shooting developments unfurled Monday, many on social media seemed stunned Las Vegas could manage such a cohesive and widespread show of action and support. Maybe they’re the types who don’t know their neighbors or don’t believe we care about one another.

But we’re as close-knit as a metro area of 2 million-plus can be. Pretty much every one of us knew someone at that concert, and as we remained glued to Facebook and the like late Sunday night, we hoped to discover not only whether they escaped, but who else among our circles had been there. We pondered going down to the Strip when we were warned not to. We marked ourselves as safe on Facebook’s crisis response page to assure friends and family we were clear of harm. We offered our cars and couches. We demonstrated that we unequivocally care about one another.

And then on Monday, we put our benevolence into overdrive and our humanity on blast.

Watching from a newsroom computer, I saw donor lines at local blood banks rival those at nightclubs on a Saturday night, with donation appointments filling up all the way through the week. Other folks passed out water and snacks they’d bought for those standing three, four and more hours in multi-block queues.

I saw locals—and the rest of the world—donate more than $3 million to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund in less than a day’s time.

Community Reacts to Las Vegas Strip Mass Shooting

I saw the Vegas dining community—organized in large, tireless part by Weekly contributor Jason Harris—jump into gear and take prepared food over to hospitals filled with overworked medical personnel, injured concertgoers and their anxious loved ones. Countless local restaurants, food trucks and chefs joined the effort and expanded food distribution to Metro officers, firefighters and medics.

I saw Downtown pizzeria Evel Pie not only send out towers of hot pizza boxes to blood banks for both staff and donors, but spend Monday evening assembling care packages for families headed into Las Vegas. The Downtown music community in particular flocked to the Bunkhouse Monday night to similarly gather and bundle up emergency supplies.

I saw Bad Apple Tattoo artist Peter Barrios launch a promotion that offers $50 ink jobs through October 13 with all proceeds going to in-need families affected by the shootings.

I saw numerous operations, organizations and shelters become so overwhelmed with food, water and supply donations that they had to implore people to stop bringing them. One photo posted on various social media feeds revealed a long chain of idling cars waiting to deliver supplies to the Las Vegas Convention Center, which was hosting a family assistance and reunification center.

I saw people quickly assemble benefit shows, fundraisers and even charitable bike rides to keep the philanthropic spirit lasting through the week. I saw counselors and mental health experts heed the call of casinos and the general public who sought professionals to assuage those struggling in the aftermath of the shooting. I saw multiple reports of Uber and Lyft drivers taking people in need of transportation to their destinations free of charge.

And I saw heroes—everyday heroes. Like Dustin Hoots, who took driving shifts all Sunday night and organized a small army of volunteers for various assistance efforts all day and evening Monday. And Paloma Solamente, whose efforts to ease the burden of ambulances by getting people to hospitals right after the massacre resulted in her saving the life of a man named William who had been shot in the chest.

This is what happens when a town full of hospitality professionals rally together: It serves others, by taking care of the visitors that pay its salaries and taking care of its own.

And this is also what happens when you threaten and underestimate Las Vegas. We have proven to the world that we can rise to the occasion for celebration. And this week, we proved we can rise to the occasion for community.

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Mike Prevatt

Mike started his journalism career at UCLA reviewing CDs and interviewing bands, less because he needed even more homework and ...

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