My relationship with Las Vegas has been a long and complicated one. I moved here when I was 11 and since then have had a love/hate relationship with the city. Las Vegas isn’t the easiest place to grow up, but its uniqueness proved more of an asset than a hindrance to me as I matured into adulthood.
Speak to anyone who is from Las Vegas and they will no doubt have an opinion about the growth and changes this city has gone through. Now a bustling Metropolis with about 2 million residents in its metro area, Las Vegas is not the Wild West town in was in the early 20th Century when airmen would visit the city’s Red Light District Downtown, its not the classy resort town it was when the Rat Pack headlined and its not the family friendly city it briefly became in the 90s.
Las Vegas survives and thrives because of its ability to change and keep up with the times. At a time when gambling has now become widespread across the world and casinos are popping up everywhere both domestically and internationally, Las Vegas still remains relevant. Travel anywhere in the world and when you say you are from Las Vegas people’s eyes light up.
While I often leave Las Vegas to travel and even took a year and a half break from the city during an around the world trip, I always come back. It’s not a perfect place, but it is one of a kind. I guess I am sort of in awe of this town despite or maybe because it is such a huge part of who I am. And today I am sad.
Over the past few years we seem to be dealing with situations like Sunday’s shooting far too often. This blog is not political and thus I won’t be writing anything political here, but I did want to share my sadness. I don’t know why it’s true, but this shooting hurts just a little more than the ones that came before.
I am not the only one who seems to believe this either. As a local it probably makes sense for it to hurt me a bit more than other more distant shootings, but I noticed yesterday that people from all across the country were sharing how personal this was to them. Las Vegas is a city that digs its roots into you and becomes a part of you. But truthfully each of these shootings should be deeply personal to all of us no matter where they take place.
Following every event such as this where we see pure evil personified, we also are reminded about how amazing people can be when they come together to help. Yesterday thousands of people gave up their time to volunteer, donate blood and even drive people around. While many often accuse Vegas of being devoid of culture, the truth is that our community is a pretty amazing one. Despite the oddities of living in such a city, the people here often display extraordinary spirit and the bonds that tie us together are strong.
We also saw this spirit displayed by our first responders. As the city with the most hotel rooms in the world, Las Vegas Police and Fire Departments actively train for situations such as Sunday’s shooting and it shows. From their swift action to take down the shooter to the way they deployed units into the field to save lives, the world learned just how world class our first responders are. I truly hope this event won’t have a huge impact on tourism to Sin City. So many here rely on it to survive and thrive.
As I mentioned earlier, our community is full of amazing people and one of them is Jason Chan. Like me he is a travel addict and a miles/points junkie, but he is also a staple in our community and is someone who constantly brings positive energy into the world. Yesterday he spent the day helping others and he wanted to share some thoughts. I’ll turn it over to him, but feel free to share your thoughts and feelings in the comments.
From Jason Chan:
I love Las Vegas. After being born here and growing up in Houston, I came back to go to UNLV and have stayed ever since for the past 17 years. As wonderful as Las Vegas is as a traveler, it’s even better as a local. Although you may come here for a concert or a show or a few nice dinners out, locals have access to that every night we wish and can escape to the suburbs that look just like anywhere else anytime we need a break. With an airport in the middle of the city, ski-able mountains 30 minutes away and California’s beach and coastline a quick hour flight away, it’s one of the most perfect places to live even before you add in the tax friendly climate.
Furthermore, with 40 million+ annual visitors, our tourism industry is a fine tuned, efficient engine that consistently ensures a safe, good time at an incredible value. Our hotels, eateries, shows, transportation, and especially our security are prepared to handle huge crowds and events.
Yet, despite the city’s best efforts, this crazy incident happened. However, my heart is full from the outpouring of support and check ins from friends and family worried about us. My heart is full seeing blood banks full of blood and warehouses stocked to capacity with donated supplies. My heart is full seeing our first responders and other heroes and heroines acting without reservation to protect and care for us.
Yet, I’m also heartbroken. Las Vegans are trying to assess the damage, pick up the pieces and figure out a plan to move forward. This happened in our home. This was a family friendly event that many look forward to and any of us could’ve been at. I’ve been trying to carry on with my day like any other day, but today is different. It’s not like any other day.
We started yesterday morning with a roll call of employees just to assess yesterday’s impact as we have techs on site to support the hotels as well as police situations. Name by name, all you could do was hope to hear a “ok” or “I’m fine.” Moving on to attempting to discuss business with coworkers and clients always begins with how crazy this event was and how it has affected a neighbor or a friend etc.
Yesterday was not normal. Although paralyzed with heartbreak, we are taking action. There are still people in need of blood, a ride, counseling and other support. Be ready to help how you can. The human spirit is alive and well as displayed when the community came together with a united front against terror to let our neighbors and visitors know that we are here for them and will do whatever’s necessary to get back on our feet. All in all, it was a truly incredible response and outpouring of support.
I’m simply amazed by the love displayed and am one proud Las Vegan among many. I anticipate our help will still be needed in the form of hot food and hygiene products in the coming days, but I know that whatever the challenge is, Las Vegans can handle it! Think about it, these people could be doing a million other things, but instead they are out here volunteering their time to help someone else out. That’s freaking beautiful! Today, there was a very simple ask/plea of Las Vegans, if you have time, give it. If you have $/goods, donate them. If you don’t have either, don’t worry about it, we’ve got you covered and will ensure you have what you need. Love will win.
LEARNINGS FROM MY EXPERIENCE VOLUNTEERING AROUND TOWN TODAY:
1. Facebook’s disaster check in feature is a great tool. Yes, we have texts and messaging apps, but it was simpler and more efficient to be able to scan a list of 100s of your friends to see they had been marked safe instead of individual texts.
2. Items needed after this tragedy: water, non perishable snacks, diapers/wipes, hygiene products, clothes, blankets/pillows; cell phone chargers, kids toys
3. Facebook Live and others services Live features were important to show the current situation for a given location be it a blood bank or donation site.
4. There are police scanner apps in case you’re interested in hearing the police chatter on a given incident. I’m not sure whether or not this was beneficial. Truth be told, my wife and I acted like wannabe cops piecing the story together in the wee hours of the morning.
5. People are ready, willing and able to help. They sometimes need to be asked, but usually just need direction. It’s a beautiful thing seeing the community come together!
6. First responders, medical staff and volunteers need food at meal times the days of and following the event. These folks are freaking Supermen and Superwomen!