When the final history of the Las Vegas mass killing is written, it will not be complete without a mass retelling of how people responded during the carnage:
Of how strangers helped strangers escape the sniper’s bullets. Of how concertgoers fell on others to shield them. Of how Nevada’s first responders quickly found the shooter and rescued hundreds. And of how Americans prayed and found unity as they mourned the dozens lost and sought to comfort the families.
The reason such tales are important is that they reflect the very qualities – such as poise, sacrifice, and compassion – needed to help prevent another mass killing. Shooters like Stephen Paddock generally act out of anger, fear, or hopelessness, even though on the surface they may seem suicidal or driven by ideology. Many of them seek to evoke in others the dark emotions they feel. Yet the rest of society cannot mirror the deeper angst of a killer. The more a tragedy’s inspiring acts of love and courage are highlighted, the easier it would be for people to influence troubled individuals prone to violence.
A cycle of hate or fear must be broken quickly. Within 12 hours of the Las Vegas killings, for example, government officials were expressing public gratitude for the hundreds of volunteers, police, health workers, and others who saved lives and acted without hesitation. Even as officials spoke of collective solutions such as tighter gun laws or better protection for public events, they sought to reinforce the qualities that can counter the evil behind such violence.
Or as President Trump told the nation in a TV address: “[I]t is our love that defines us today. And always will. Forever.” His words were similar to those of President Barack Obama after another mass killing here in the United States: “Scripture teaches us, ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.’ ”
As Americans discuss what new measures might prevent another mass shooting, they should recall the traits of character displayed during the night of Oct. 1. What happened in Las Vegas in response to the killings should not stay in Las Vegas.