Sunday night was the last night of our honeymoon.
We had just been to Treasure Island to see a Cirque du Soleil show and had an amazing steak dinner that may have been a bit outside of the budget. It seemed like the only thing missing was a gorgeous view of the city at night. The lights of Las Vegas are like nowhere else in the world and there are quite a few places we could go to catch the outstanding view. Instead of paying to go up the Stratosphere or the High Roller Ferris wheel we chose the least expensive option and visited a lounge on the top of the Delano hotel.
It continues to surprise me how many decisions had to be made, in the right order to get us to THAT hotel at THAT time on THAT day.
Not 20 minutes after being there (we had already taken pictures, looked around and were thinking about leaving shortly) a manager ushers people off of the open air observation deck area and locked the doors. Soon we found out that all the doors are locked and the elevators are totally shut down. The manager explains that there is a mass shooting going on below (he was somber but calm, almost casual) and that we were now in full on lockdown until further notice. Not understanding the gravity of the situation we thought we might be there for an hour, maybe two before we were back in our hotel room miles away from what was happening on the streets below. It feels naive to remember that now.
A few people went on their phones and started sharing early information. The rest of us watched out the floor to ceiling windows at people scattering from the concert venue below and police rush the scene. A few police lights turned into hundreds quickly; there was no where you could look in Las Vegas without seeing those flashing blue and red lights. At that time, Andrew suggested we pray. We didn’t know fully what was happening but we knew that there were many people that were going to need help and God’s presence.
The temperature of the room was mixed as our time in lockdown continued.
Some were desperate for as much information as possible from their phones, others were already fatigued by the wait and slept on couches and in booths. The most shocking to me were the people that carried on like nothing had changed, chatty and lighthearted.
By the time our 30 minute stop had turned into hour 4 they were passing out tablecloths as blankets because most people decided to get some rest by the end. I couldn’t quite bring myself to sleep. Whether it was the helicopters that were flying by at eye level or the fear that more dangerous people could still be on the loose, I was on high alert. I spent a lot of time staring out those massive windows on the tragedy below. I couldn’t help but feel sick knowing people lost their lives on the grass below. The wind was blowing so strong there was a high pitch howl coming from the glass doors that completely embodied how people were feeling.
When the police came to clear and evacuate our floor yelling “HANDS UP, HANDS UP” while searching the room with their shotguns raised we were relieved and anxious all over again. Thankfully we were able to evacuate at that point. There was an auditorium full of people waiting to get on city buses that were outside ready to take us to an evacuation relief center at the university.
On the bus, as we drove past ambulances and through police blockades, we heard stories from people that were missing loved ones. People who were woken up in the middle of the night by police evacuating them, leaving behind passports they needed for their early morning flights. People who were at the hotel while their kids were at the concert below and now found themselves in a desperate search to be reunited with their children. A man whose wife was asleep in their room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel and is now on lockdown on that floor, he couldn’t go up to her and she couldn’t go down to him. So many people displaced and feeling completely lost.
We finally made it to a safe place where we could begin our last journey during these early morning hours to find a ride back to our hotel.
We just started walking toward the highway, hoping to find a more convenient, less chaotic area. As we were walking a man stopped his car and asked where we were going and if we needed a ride. Normally I’m not one for getting in a strangers car but our options were few and far between. His name was Sean and Sean woke up in the middle of the night to grab a glass of water. He checked his phone before going back to sleep and saw that his home city has been ripped apart at the seams. He jumped into action, bringing water and blankets to people near the concert area. Giving rides to people who were lost, many were foreign tourists who didn’t speak English well enough to understand the instructions on how to get to the evacuation relief center. When he dropped us off he wouldn’t accept the money we offered but he gave us his card in case there’s anything else he could do for us.
Sean is a great example of the city of Las Vegas. The community. Not the fancy hotels and casinos, but the people who make up the heart of the city. People who were waiting in lines around the block the next day to donate blood to help the victims of the shooting. A community that did everything in their power to help a group of people that were mostly tourists, not even a part of their community, but in need of help nonetheless.
As soon as Andrew and I made it safely to our hotel we collapsed in prayer. Praying for the victims, the police officers, the city that is forever changed. Praying and knowing that God will move mightily through this tragedy. Pray with us today.