Sun editorial:

A community of heroes


Steve Marcus

A man holds a sign with a Vegas Strong hashtag during a prayer vigil to honor those affected by the shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, in front of Las Vegas City Hall, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017.

Our hearts ache for the victims of the unspeakable tragedy that occurred Sunday night in our community, and there will be many more hard days to come for Las Vegas.

But as we grieve for those who were killed or injured and pray for their families, we also must recognize the heroes that emerged from throughout our community in the face of horror.

Reacting to the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Las Vegas residents bravely and selflessly rushed in to help. No questions. No hesitation. They saw people in need, and they went to their aid.

Whether they were concertgoers comforting the wounded, law enforcement officers and first responders rushing in to protect the crowd, good Samaritans using private vehicles to take shooting victims to hospitals, or health care professionals working around the clock to aid the flood of more than 500 injured innocents, heroism was everywhere in Las Vegas.

Under the most terrifying of conditions, a countless number of attendees at the concert shielded those around them, gave them medical aid and led them to safety. The stories from the scene were inspirational and amazing — people gathering belts and bandanas to use as tourniquets, carrying others out of harm’s way, exposing themselves to the hail of bullets to cover the wounded, creating gaps in the perimeter fencing so others could get away, and many more.

Meanwhile, although the scene was chaotic, reports of tramplings were few. Instead, the concertgoers generally described each other as being helpful.

There were angels in that crowd, and they saved lives.

The same can be said of the law enforcement officers and first responders who ran toward the gunfire while others were running away.

Sheriff Joe Lombardo and Metro Police displayed a spectacular level of preparedness and professionalism in locating and confronting the shooter, Stephen Paddock. It was unclear Monday how quickly they got to Paddock, but there was no question that the speed at which Metro operated was miraculous. Without the officers’ bravery and efficiency, the horror below the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay would have been even worse.

Officers at the concert site reacted admirably, and Lombardo has provided exceptional leadership throughout. He’s been a calm, steady and compassionate presence, from overseeing the swift response to helping establish what appears to be a well-coordinated multidepartment investigation to providing the community with regular updates on investigators’ progress.

First responders at the scene also went above and beyond, routinely putting themselves at risk of danger to assist the victims. They waded into the senseless violence — an act made even braver by what turned out to be reports of multiple shooters and explosions — to perform their duties and offer desperately needed care for victims.

Across Las Vegas Boulevard, the staff and leadership of Mandalay Bay and other MGM Resorts International properties were hustling to usher guests to safety and were executing emergency plans within minutes. They were helped by guests who, like the concertgoers across the street, made sure that others — many times complete strangers — were cared for.

Heroes, one and all.

Then there’s the health care community, which was faced with a flood of wounded that was reminiscent of a natural disaster. Staffs at Las Vegas hospitals performed extraordinary acts the night of the shooting, and continue to do so. This emergency is still happening to them, as they work to save the most badly injured, and will for days. Staff and leadership of the five hospitals where the wounded were taken — especially UMC and Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center — deserve the community’s praise and thanks.

So do the local officials who created and executed the emergency management plan, providing buses to transport the concertgoers, getting the Thomas & Mack Center organized as a shelter, establishing crisis lines and so forth.

Once the shelter was established, another group of heroes emerged — the hundreds of people who delivered water, blankets and other items to the Thomas & Mack Center. There were so many donations, officials asked politely for people to stop dropping items off. It was a heartwarming problem to have.

But the giving didn’t stop there. Las Vegas residents waited in long lines — hundreds, in some cases — to donate blood on Monday. And when officials set up a GoFundMe account with the goal of raising $500,000 for the victims' families, donors shot over it within hours. The goal was reset to $1 million, and that came and went, too. As of the last update Monday, the fund had drawn more than $2.8 million.

A tragedy that will never be forgotten yielded a community response that won’t, either.

Las Vegas showed what it truly is, and it’s more than a place that offers people an escape from reality. It’s a place where, when confronted with the ugliest of realities, we pour out our hearts, make sacrifices to aid those in need and work even harder to serve others.

We should never forget the victims of Oct. 1, 2017. But as we embark on the long process of healing, we can find warmth in the compassion with which our community treated them.

God bless Las Vegas.

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