A pair of cowboy boots in the street outside the concert venue after a mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada.
(photo credit: STEVE MARCUS/REUTERS)
LAS VEGAS – Just like on 9/11, I was in Las Vegas on Sunday night. Back then, in 2001, amid the biggest terrorist attack the United States had known, the city did not stop. Slot machines kept running and the throngs of tourists kept to their vacation routine. Las Vegas was far from the eye then, but Sunday night it got closer.
We woke up to a bombardment of calls and WhatsApp messages on Sunday from family and friends who knew we were here. Israelis have a well-known attack ritual: Immediately check that everyone is fine and then warn “be safe.” As Israelis, shootings do not catch us off guard. The attack veterans that we are, we know there is no place that is safe. This is what Americans were learning Sunday morning.
The attack in Las Vegas is not just another fatal shooting. It’s an attack on an American symbol in the beating heart of world tourism. The attack at the center of the famous “strip,” home to the magnificent hotels – the city’s oxygen – is an attack on the world’s symbol of freedom. The Las Vegas strip that hosted 42 million tourists last year received a deadly blow Sunday night.
Vegas is a city where nearly everything is permitted. Tourists flock here from all over the world just to have fun, eat well, shop, go to the wildest parties and to gamble. The always-ringing slot machines make up the characteristic sound of the place. Hotels, restaurants and gifts shops are open 24/7, 365 days a year.
The mass shooting Sunday night was executed from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel toward a crowd of 22,000 people who were participating in a country music festival.
People at the concert retold their experiences.
“When we heard the gunshots we were sure it was fireworks,” said one concert-goer. “When we realized it was gunshots that were being fired from above, we just lay on top of our loved ones and waited for a break from the shots in order to find cover.”
This city is not prepared for such a massacre. The local news is reporting chaos. The hospitals are not prepared.
The people of Las Vegas have been donating blood and collecting food, blankets and cell phone chargers for the victims, placing these items at a center of refuge that was set up nearby.
The shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, resident of the nearby town of Mesquite, had no criminal record.
His neighbors spoke of a man who never raised any suspicions. The shooting has once again sparked the debate of arms restrictions in the United States, an argument that has sided so far with the US Constitution’s Second Amendment – a right to bear arms, to own lethal weapons.
We woke up this morning to a closed strip, to a strip that has never known this kind of silence. It is hard to predict how this horror will affect the nature of the city, an open city, free of security, free of concern.
A deadly mass shooting in the US – that was the headline in the city of lights Sunday morning.Revital Yachin Krakovski is an Israeli visiting Las Vegas.