Thousands of people gathered on Sunday Oct. 1 to celebrate the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Las Vegas strip. Total strangers gathered to embrace each other like family for a night of entertainment by some of their favorite singers such as Jason Aldean, Big & Rich, Kane Brown, and Jake Owen. What began as a night filled with joy, pride, and the incredible power of music turned into chaos when Steven Paddock, a 64-year-old white male, unleashed a vicious attack from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino just next to the concert venue. This occurred shortly after 10 p.m local time just as Aldean was performing.
The horrific attack took the lives of 58 people, and injured over 500, making this the nation’s deadliest modern mass shooting. Paddock was found dead in his hotel room by officials along with explosive materials, 23 guns, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Paddock bugged the hotel room and hallway with cameras. Officials are currently investigating Paddock’s motives and everything leading up to the attack. There is still no explanation as to why he was motivated to cultivate this horrific attack on thousands of unexpecting concertgoers.
However, in the midst of darkness, humanity has risen up to create light. An Illinois man by the name of Greg Zanis, who has made headlines for his previous tributes for mass shooting victims, traveled all the way to Las Vegas to erect 58 white crosses right in front of the iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign. Each of these white wooden crosses was embellished with a red heart, a picture of each victim, along with the victim’s name. This was an amazing action that will never be forgotten, and was appreciated greatly by the people of Las Vegas.
Families, friends, and total strangers gathered around the signs to mourn the lives lost, bringing their own personal tributes to the crosses in the form of balloons, handwritten signs, flowers, and candles. Felt tip pens were provided so that people could write messages of love and support directly on the crosses. Courtney Goldman, a Las Vegas local, was there to honor her old friend Hannah Ahlers from over 20 years ago. One of their fondest memories together was when they attended prom. Goldman was interviewed by the San Diego Union Tribune.
“I wanted to put pictures up of her and her family. I wanted to make sure there was pictures of her and her husband and three children, not just her by herself, because they are the people left behind,” Goldman said. Continuing on how the memorial helps the healing process, “seeing people from the community, and outside the community because a lot of these people aren’t from here, it has touched so many people,” Goldman said.
As a Christian community, it is urgent to take on the responsibility of helping others in their time of need. Eastern University’s Chaplin, Joe Modica, sent out a public prayer to students and staff, urging everyone to pray for the people affected by this mass shooting.
“Please pray for Las Vegas. For those who died, for those injured, and for those who witnessed this tragedy. Lord, have mercy. Thank God for the first-responders and others who risked their lives to assist others. We also pray for our alumni and friends in the Las Vegas area. ‘The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit’ (Psalm 34:18).”
For any EU students or faculty who are called to help, but do not know exactly how, you can donate to the victim’s families on GoFundMe, organized by Steve Sisolak, Chair of the Clark County Commission. If you are willing, you could also set up an appointment to donate blood at one of the local American Red Cross locations, which will help free up the overall blood supply.
Sources: CNN, CMT, NPR, Business Insider, ABC News, San Diego Union Tribune