Let’s Remember 10/1/17 Not as a Day of Infamy but a Day of Unity
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the horrific shooting in Las Vegas in which 58 innocent lives were lost and 841 were wounded. Here are my thoughts about how we’ve coped with the tragedy.
I moved to Las Vegas in 2002, but in a spiritual sense, it’s always been my home.
Like the vast majority people who now live in Las Vegas, I came here from someplace else. The first question that often comes up between strangers at social gatherings in Las Vegas is, “where are you from?”
Many residents still identify with the city of their roots. Las Vegas is home to many thousands of Californians, New Yorkers, Texans, and other transplants who were born and raised elsewhere. Apparently, old habits are hard to break. For instance, if you look around Las Vegas on any NFL Sunday, you’ll find dozens of sports bars claimed by the fans of various teams. Every football team — from the Patriots to the Dolphins to the Seahawks — has a loyal fan base which relocated to Las Vegas from another city — and most continue rooting for their old team.
Since it was founded about a century ago, Las Vegas has frequently been looked upon as a clique of outlaws and oddballs, a free-trade zone, and an experiment. It was a temporary stopover until something else better came along. It was the city of second (or third, or fourth) chances. Even after I’d lived here for well over a decade, I still felt no particular affinity with my fellow citizens. Sure, there were plenty of nice people who, like me, decided the weather, cost of living, and freewheeling lifestyle was preferable to other places to live. I just didn’t want any of them over for dinner.
Then, 10/1/17 happened.
I didn’t know anyone who died. I don’t think I even knew anyone who was injured. But everyone in Las Vegas experienced the shock and felt the pain. We drove down to The Strip. We left flowers. We marched with candles. We visited the victims memorial downtown in the Arts District. The healing had begun. The healing continues. Some say, the healing never ends.
Out of the tragedy, Las Vegas became a community for the first time. Some natives may argue this point, but it took a convulsing moment to jolt us from our hives and remind us all that we’re really a colony of one.
When the tragedy came up as it did in discussion all over town — in buffet lines, at car washes, at poker tables, in a doctor’s office — no one asked who you voted for. No one cared if you were from Kansas City or Chicago. No one paid any attention to if you were straight or gay. No one cared how much money you had in your pocket or what kind of car you drove. We all cared about what happened. We all cared about each other. We all listened. We all learned. We all felt a terrible pain for our brothers and sisters who suffered.
And so as the calendar days passed, 10/1/17 became not so much a date of infamy, as a day of unity. It’s the day Las Vegas became like other cities that went through terrible testing times. It was the date we were forced to grow up. Las Vegas wasn’t a casino town any longer. It was home.
In a remarkable twist of fate and good fortune, Las Vegas welcomed a professional sports team to our city for the first time. The NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights took the ice in the desert just a few days following the tragedy. For our city, the team became — not merely a diversion — but a source of pride. Even locals who weren’t hockey fans and had never attended a game before embraced the Golden Knights as the hometown team. When they played, traffic was noticeably lighter on the streets. Restaurants weren’t nearly as crowded unless it was the bar area and the television was showing the Golden Knights’ game.
Las Vegas’ affection for the Golden Knights was reciprocated with one of the most unlikely success stories in the history of sports. The new expansion team went all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, which was an unthinkable achievement. The Golden Knights didn’t win the cup, but they were our champions. For some, they were a salvation.
Since 10/1/17, I’ve seen thousands of signs, t-shirts, banners, and other displays of civic pride all over the city — from Henderson to Summerlin to North Las Vegas. They’re on billboards. They’re on bumper stickers. Some say #VegasStrong. Others say things like “Proud to Call Las Vegas Home.” A year ago, we never saw any displays like that. The closest thing one could find to a Las Vegas t-shirt had a pair of dice on it and was hanging in the clearance rack at the airport. Now, locals openly chime Las Vegas residency as the coolest place in the world to live.
So many lost their lives a year ago. But far more may have found theirs and finally discovered what it means to live and love Las Vegas. Out of the ashes, hope was born and pride has flourished.