COLUMN: Perspetive gained as bystander to tragedy

Uneasy feeling for reporter, who was just a few blocks away from Las Vegas shooting Oct. 1

Waking up to a barrage of text messages and missed calls is almost never good.

You know – without reading a single text or calling anyone back – something has happened.

And at 3 a.m. on Oct. 2, as I sat, bleary-eyed, on the edge of my Las Vegas hotel bed, it most certainly was bad.

I had more than 20 messages, including more Facebook notifications than I’ve had in the last month combined. The first few I saw just said, ‘You OK?’

Am I OK?

What are they talking about? I’m on vacation, of course I’m OK.

Then, a more detailed text from a coworker here at the Peace Arch News – leave it to the journalist to finally ask the best question – “Were you anywhere near the shooting?”

Umm, what?

That’s when, after quickly searching online, I discovered what had happened – that a 64-year-old man had opened fire from his 32nd-floor hotel suite, killing more than 50 people at a music festival and injuring hundreds more.

Hotels were locked down, the street below was, apparently, pandemonium as scared people tried to scurry from that end of the strip, and sirens blared for hours as the situation unfolded.

And I slept through the entire thing, having – in the interest of full disclosure – gone to bed early after a few too many daytime beers. My wife and I had been at a Vegas Golden Knights’ hockey game earlier that evening, but after a long Sunday of eating, drinking and donating to slot machines, we decided to call it a day.

I’ve never been more thankful for overpriced arena beers in my life.

Wide awake now at 3 a.m., I tossed and turned for a few more hours, then spent the rest of the day letting people know we were alive and well.

For the next couple days, we did our best to enjoy the rest of our vacation, though to say the mood was sombre on the usually raucous strip would be an understatement. Though strangely, I never heard a single mention of the attack from anyone – not a passerby, not a casino employee. Nobody.

It wasn’t until we went off the strip – to places with local residents – where the shooting was top-of-mind.

Our Uber driver, for example, had all kinds of theories on the shooter’s motive – basically all of them involving ISIS and the Internet – and my wife ended up consoling a resident in an off-strip casino bathroom, of all places, after she started to break down.

Tourists, I guess, just wanted to try to enjoy what was left of their holiday, but native Las Vegans, understandably, had more to process.

It’s an odd feeling to be a bystander to the deadliest mass-shooting in modern U.S. history. A few days later, we returned home to our regular lives, free of what-ifs and whys.

But – as was pointed out to me via numerous texts in the days that followed – at least we were able to come home, considering 58 people were not as lucky.

Makes those gambling losses feel pretty minor, by comparison.

Nick Greenizan is a reporter at the Peace Arch News.

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