Wednesday, October 04, 2017

EDITORIAL >> A massacre in Las Vegas

“Instead of weeping when a tragedy occurs in a songbird’s life, it sings away its grief. I believe we could well follow the pattern of our feathered friends.” So goes a quote by William Shakespeare.

Let’s follow that pattern and focus on the heroes from Sunday’s tragic mass shooting at a Las Vegas outdoor concert that left about 60 dead, so far, and that number will grow, and more than 500 injured, resulting in the worst mass shooting in American history.

All from a madman with automatic weapons shooting across the street from the country show from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel. With nearly 30,000 people confined by tall temporary walls, the shooter was having a heyday.

The killer, Stephen Paddock, took an arsenal of 23 sophisticated weapons to his hotel room, where he knocked out windows with a special hammer and gleefully gunned down innocent concertgoers enjoying a weekend of country music.

What kept the death toll from rising into the hundreds was the efforts of everyday people stepping up to do what was necessary. The terror gave rise to heroes, some who lost their lives, who urgently helped those who were wounded in the ordeal.

A witness described acts of heroism during and after the shooting. “It was everywhere. I saw guys plugging bullet holes with their fingers. I saw police officers, while everyone else was crouching, police officers standing up as targets, just trying to direct people to tell them where to go. The amount of bravery I saw, words can’t describe what it was like.”

Ordinary people became paramedics.

Dale Shrode, a 34-year veteran of the Los Angeles Fire Department, was at the show with his family when the shooting started. His emergency training kicked in, and he and his son began administering first aid, using belts to try to stop people from bleeding.

“My son, he actually collected the belts from people. The best thing we could do for people is stop the bleeding and once we stopped the bleeding, we dragged them out of the line of fire. Most people who were shot were still in the line of fire,” Shrode said.

Mike Cronk, a retired teacher from Alaska, was one of many that used their pickup truck to transport victims from the scene. He did that after making sure that his buddy, who was shot three times in the chest, was out of harm’s way.

Cronk braved gunfire and used his shirt to stop his friend’s bleeding.

“I had to stay with my buddy,” he said. “I wasn’t really worried about the safety part because I was going to stay with my buddy.”

Cronk helped move him under a stage and put pressure on his wounds.

They loaded him into another concertgoer’s pickup truck with four wounded. One concertgoer died in Cronk’s arms while they tried to get to a triage area that was set up by first responders.

Heather Melton, an orthopedic surgeon from Nashville, Tenn., said that her husband, Sonny, “saved my life and lost his.” He was shielding Heather from gunfire when he was fatally shot. He was one of many victims who died protecting their loved ones.

Amy McAslin and roommate Krystal Goddard dove under a table to protect themselves as best as they could from the barrage of bullets. Eventually, McAslin realized a perfect stranger, who ended up taking a bullet in the lower backside, was shielding the women.

“A gentleman – I don’t know his name – he completely covered me,” McAslin told the media. “He covered my face. He said, ‘I’ve got you.’ Just truly incredible, a stranger, jumping over me to protect me.”

An off-duty nurse from Orange County, California, told KTNV that she ran back into the danger to help rescue those who had suffered gunshot wounds.

“We went back because I’m a nurse, and I just felt that I had to,” one of the concertgoers said, after she had gotten safely out of the firing zone and then went back in.

After the shooting, concertgoers helped treat victims and get them to local hospitals. Later, area residents lined up to give blood as people from far and wide donated money.

“It’s been our finest hour as a city,” Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchinson said at a news conference Monday. “It’s been, I think, among our finest hours as Americans.”

As the days follow, we will learn more about the shooter and about the victims of this most heinous crime, but stories of heroism will also continue to be told.

Writer James Geary is credited with saying, “Heroism often results as a response to extreme events,” that was never more evident than Sunday night in Las Vegas.