Las Vegas tragedy tests America, but also summons faith and resolve

Reactions to a mass shooting range from prayer vigils to ‘I need to stay off Facebook.’ Many Americans stayed on social media, as they sought to share – or to find – some hope. 

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
President Trump stands with first lady Melania Trump, and with Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, as he leads a moment of silence at the White House in Washington on Oct. 2 in the wake of the the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

When she woke up Monday morning, Ali Solino heard her son calling from his crib.

“It’s my favorite sound in the world,” she wrote on the New Orleans Moms Blog. “I got him up and got him breakfast. As I rounded the corner, my husband said, ‘Well, I guess you’ve already seen the headlines.’ I hadn’t. At least 50 people were dead with hundreds more injured in a mass shooting in Las Vegas. It took everything I had not to take E and crawl back in his crib with him. In that moment, I wished I was pregnant with him again so he would be back in my belly, protected. I wished I could keep him safe forever.”

Across the United States, in cities from New Orleans, with the third-highest murder rate in the nation, to ones with the lowest rates, Americans tried to make sense of the worst mass shooting in the US history. Many cried. Others turned to prayer. Some looked for something deep within themselves to counter a sense of helplessness in the face of senseless violence.

“I need to stay off Facebook,” wrote Shantae Nïcølê Johnson of Danville, Ill., which had no murders last year. “Shooting in Las Vegas. Gun shots heard this morning in Danville. You'd think I'd run out of tears already.”

In Oshkosh, Wis., another zero-murder metro in 2016, the Oshkosh Ahmadiyya Muslims posted a Facebook message Monday morning: “Our deepest sympathies and prayers for all of the victims and their families who have suffered in this Las Vegas concert shooting that happened this past Sunday night…. May God protect us all. Amen.”

For some, the chain of tragedies seemed almost overwhelming. The Emmanuel United Church of Christ in Oshkosh shared a Facebook post from the church's president in Cleveland:   

Clarence Tabb Jr./Detroit News/AP
Janet Shay prays for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 2 in Detroit.

“I am fast losing the capacity to mourn all that we must mourn,” John Dorhauer wrote. “Charlottesville becomes Houston becomes Florida becomes Puerto Rico becomes Las Vegas…. When will it end? And what must I do, must I do, must I do to respond with meaning, with purpose, with intent so that whatever hope we talk about on the other side of this is not vapid and vain? I feel utterly powerless. God help us all. Inspire imagination. Inspire hope. Inspire healing. Inspire resistance. Inspire something new and something bold and something grand. This cannot be our ongoing narrative. We have to want something better than this. Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” [Editor's note: This paragraph and the preceding one were updated to clarify that Mr. Dorhauer is in Cleveland.]

Karen Larsen of Salt Lake City saw it first hand. Attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas with her sister, and a friend from St. George, Utah, (another zero-murder city), she heard shots and hit the ground.

“It’s just awful,” she told of Salt Lake City. “You see it on TV and you never think it's going to happen. And when it’s going on you’re thinking, it’s not real, it’s not real.”

Like many concertgoers, her group ran for safety, but Ms. Larsen said she got separated from her sister and friend in the melee before reaching their hotel a few blocks away. “When I saw my sister in the lobby, we just broke down and grabbed each other.”

Some were not so fortunate. The attacker, Stephen Paddock, fatally shot at least 58 people and wounded more than 500 attending the concert.

“The shooting last night in Las Vegas has really hit home,” Hedgecock Group Real Estate in Fairbanks, Alaska, posted on Facebook. “Our friend, Rob McIntosh at Century-21, was shot and we understand he is in surgery trying to recover. Our thoughts are with Rob and his family during this very difficult time.”

With 22 murders per 100,000 residents, Fairbanks had the nation’s highest murder rate last year, according to FBI statistics.

In Detroit, the local archdiocese scheduled a noon service for all residents to offer prayers for the victims in Las Vegas.

In New Orleans, the news of the shooting was especially poignant. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who represents parts of the metro, had just returned to Capitol Hill after he was critically wounded in June after a shooting at a congressional baseball game.  

“In this tragic moment, I encourage people across America to stand together in solidarity and to support the Las Vegas community,” he said in a statement on Twitter. “In the face of unspeakable evil, our whole nation must respond with countless acts of kindness, warmth and generosity.”

Ms. Solino, the blogger mom in New Orleans, put it this way:

“Being a mom is always an act of bravery, whether you feel like it is or not…. Try to focus on those close to you and breathe. This world is full of violence, but it’s also full of joy. To be a mom is to believe. And though I am scared, I believe that there is more good than bad in the world. Your children are the proof.”

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