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Tragedy Reveals The Real Spirit,
Community of Las Vegas

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Mandalay Bay Hotel and the Las Vegas sign.
Image by Prayitno and used under the terms of a
Creative Commons License.
Out-of-Towners Who Only Know Las Vegas As The Strip May Not Know It, But Millions Of Outstanding People Inhabit Clark County

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By Karen Weil
Modern Times Magazine

Oct. 3, 2017 — Las Vegas, my hometown, is known for many things: Gambling, excess, decadence, glitz, non-stop dining, and entertainment for every taste.
Those are obvious words that come to mind whenever the city is mentioned.

They are clichés.

After Sunday, it is now known for something else: A mass shooting, the deadliest in U.S. history.

That evening (Sunday, Oct. 1, around 10 p.m.), a 60-something man decided – for whatever twisted, vile and inhuman reason — to use a massive cache of weapons to fire upon thousands attending the Route 91 country music concert from his room in the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

We’ve all seen the videos: Popular artist Jason Aldean on stage, while people cheered and enjoyed the music, and then … the pop pop pop of automatic weapons, followed by screams of horror and people fleeing in all directions.
At first, when the news broke, I wasn’t following it closely. At that time, it was only two people dead –and that was horrible enough.

A little later, it was 20 people, then 50, ending at 59. Five hundred and twenty-seven people were injured. I was up until nearly 5 a.m. watching the horror unfold. It was both shocking and numbing.

The Las Vegas Strip has been the scene of countless notorious crimes, including more than a few brazen casino robberies by gang members to the murder of Tupac Shakur in 1996. And when the Mafia was an odious power all unto itself for nearly 40 years, Mob members killed hundreds of people.

Never mind the numerous other murders, premeditated or otherwise, that occurred in the city over its nearly 115-year existence, making it no different than any metropolitan area.

There is much I could write about the terrorist act Sunday – and yes, that’s exactly what it was.

For me, however, what really stood out was the incredible way the community responded and how some in the national media covering the tragedy were awed by that.

It starts with misconceptions about Las Vegas as not being a normal city. “It’s easy to mock Las Vegas; we’re an alien world,” said long-time Nevada political writer Jon Ralston on MSNBC.

He added that many who don’t live in Vegas don’t realize there is a whole city surrounding the Strip.

Let me clear it up for those who may still not fully understand:  For the nearly 2 million who call it home, Las Vegas is a full-fledged, actual city complete with churches, schools, universities, parks, libraries, movie theaters, grocery stores, youth baseball and soccer teams, art galleries, numerous civic and charitable organizations, and even a few historic buildings.

Most don’t know there is a native American tribe in Las Vegas, the Southern Paiute.

Las Vegas is also racially and ethnically diverse, with sizable African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Island populations, along with inhabitants from all corners of the globe. Many natives (including me) went to integrated public schools.

It is a place where people are employed as teachers, doctors, artists, lawyers, chefs, IT specialists, cashiers, paramedics, police officers, judges, pastors, therapists, restaurant servers, bakers and journalists. More than few own successful small or sometimes large businesses they started in “Sin City.” Others work in heavy industry.

We all witnessed the incredible, selfless actions of countless first responders on Sunday night – they live in Las Vegas and surrounding communities.
Political Profundity: Las Vegas Shooting
This episode focuses on the the Las Vegas Shooting with critical perspective from Karen, who was born and raised in the city. Also, "The 60 Seconds 6" features AZ Senate Race, Tom Price's Sacking, Tom Petty's passing and much more. — Oct. 3, 2017
The city is home to a major U.S. Air Force base (Nellis), where many brave men and women are stationed. My late uncle, who served in World War II, was one of them. There’s also a National Guard base.

My alma mater, the University of Nevada Las Vegas – once derided as “basketball U” because of its NCAA-winning Rebels team – will soon celebrate 60 years. UNLV has hosted presidential debates and even employed a Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, as an instructor.

The College of Southern Nevada is where baseball superstar Bryce Harper, a native, once played. Kris Bryant, who helped the Chicago Cubs win the World Series, grew up in Vegas, too.

Las Vegas has its share of bland housing subdivisions, but it also has a thriving Arts District that offers exhibitions both mainstream and eclectic. There is both a professional symphony and ballet company.

College radio station KUNV expanded my musical knowledge. A thriving punk/alternative music scene existed at one time, and several bands who came up through the Vegas club scene (like Imagine Dragons) have gone on to worldwide fame.

The tragedy of Route 91 aside, Las Vegas is also the site of major festivals like Electric Daisy and Life Is Beautiful.

Many people listened to KNPR for classical music. In tradition with Nevada’s cowboy past, the city also hosts numerous country music stations. It also has more than a few Latino music and Christian radio stations.

Many of us learned about the world around us, science and higher art by watching the local PBS station, KLVX, which remains a vital cultural institution.
It certainly has hospitals; the city’s only trauma center, University Medical Center – formerly Southern Nevada Memorial, where I was born – was where shooting victims were treated for injuries.

There was a headline on the San Francisco Chronicle’s website that I found relatively insulting: “Sin City’s frivolous feel shattered by mass horror.”

Again, Vegas is many things, some of them not exactly on the up-and-up. But “frivolous”?

No.

My friends and colleagues who live there are not frivolous. They are college-educated, erudite folks.

They go to work every day; they raise children; coach Little League; worship in churches, synagogues, mosques or Buddhist temples; care for their ailing parents; and volunteer with their favorite charity. They donate blood to help victims in times of crisis (like now).

They keep up on current events, protest and vote. They’ve suffered personal loss, be it a family member or financial.

In other words, they live and experience a full, respectable and normal American life.  Every day, they strive to make their town just a little better.

There’s little doubt Sunday’s nightmarish event will change Las Vegas, in ways noticeable or subtle. Some of that glib “party town” image will fade. A memorial will undoubtedly be built, while hotel management and music festivals will probably have to consider tougher security measures. Nevada could be integral to the gun reform debate.

But perhaps now, people who don’t know it well will finally understand: Las Vegas is a real city, for better and worse.
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