Pearls & Vodka

Here’s to the Brave Ones…

It was 10:08 p.m. in Las Vegas, Nevada, on October 1st. The Route 91 Harvest Festival was wrapping up with the closing act, Jason Aldean. There were roughly 22,000 people gathered just outside of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. For 10-15 minutes, a rapid fire succession of gunshots rang out over the crowd. Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old, retired, twice-divorced, accountant from Mesquite, Nevada, was barricaded inside of his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the resort. There were 23 weapons found in the hotel room, including multiple rifles equipped with scopes on them. He had several pounds of ammonium nitrate in his car, which is used to make explosives. As of this morning, his motives are still not confirmed, and there are 59 people who lost their lives, along with 527 other individuals who were also injured on Sunday night. [1]

I’ve seen many who have shared that they refuse to say Mr. Paddock’s name. And I share the sentiment that I do not believe he should be given publicity to somehow spur others on to recreate his heinous acts in hopes of gaining attention as well. However, in the words of President George W. Bush, “We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. We will lead the world in opposing it.” [2]

His name was Stephen Paddock. I have no idea why he chose to commit this horrific act of violence on complete strangers. I’m sure as the days continue to unfold we will learn more about his motives and more about who he was. But personally, I’m more interested in the stories of those who were lost and those who sacrificed their own personal safety to ensure the protection of others.

This is also not the time or place for the debate on gun laws. There is an appropriate space to do that, and I’m sure soon I will write a blog on that. That is not this blog today.

All that being said, here’s to the brave ones…

Well-respected, selfless, military veteran, husband, father, youth football coach, off-duty police officer. These are words used to describe Charleston Hartfield. The 34-year-old, “helped every player to excel” that he coached. He was committed to, “bridging the gap with no filters or shaded perceptions.” [3] “ChuckyHart,” as his friends called him, lost his life Sunday night, never returning texts to friends checking on his whereabouts after the shooting.

Dorene Anderson was attending the concert with her daughters when she was shot and killed. [5] Denise Burditus passed away in her husband’s arms, just after posting pictures on social media smiling with the concert in the background. [6]

Sonny Melton died protecting his wife as they ran from the shooting. As he was shielding, while they ran from the hail of bullets, she felt his back being hit. [7]

Jordan McIldoon was an only child, at the concert with his girlfriend, separated during the chaos; he died in a stranger’s arm, named Heather Gooze, who refused to leave him as he was dying. [8]

Thomas Day Jr. was shot and killed while attending the concert with his son, who remains hospitalized with injuries. [9] Neysa Tonks, a single mother of 4 children, lost her life during the attack. [10]

Jack Beaton, of Bakersfield, California, was killed while covering his wife from the gunfire. [11]
Christopher Roybal was 28-years-old and had served four tours of combat duty in the Middle East. Making it home safely from war, he lost his life during the attack Sunday night. [12]

The stories are endless.

59 men and women, just out enjoying life.

Kyle Krasta described the last moments of his longtime friend Jennifer Irvine by saying, “at least she died singing, dancing, laughing and enjoying life.” [13]

And they were. They were all enjoying life. Dancing, singing, laughing with friends and family.

Just having fun.

And then terror reigned down upon them.

I’ve learned through tragedies that nothing ever makes sense. No excuse is ever good enough. No motive is ever understandable enough. No justification ever makes it right.

Evil is just evil.

Plain and simple.

There are many debates to be had around what causes these events. Was he mentally ill? Did video games affect him inappropriately? Was he abused as a child? Had he recently suffered a breakup? Did he feel ostracized?

And these are all plausible investigations to conduct. The more we know, the more we can prevent these acts from happening in the future.

But the reality is, the answers to those questions and the unasked queries will never bring back those 59 people. The answers will never erase the memories of fear and terror that will plague those 22,000 people for the rest of their lives. The answers will not heal the physical wounds of those still in the hospital receiving treatment.

It will never be enough.

This horrific act is now known as the, “deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

But the unfortunate thing is, for how long?

On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 58 others in a terrorist attack/hate crime inside Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

For 476 days that attack was known as the, “deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.”

Before that it was Virginia Tech, before that it was Sandy Hook Elementary School, the list goes on and on. [14]

I’ve heard many people ask, “when will the violence end?”

Not to get too “preachy,” but this side of Heaven it won’t. I try to walk a thin line of not being “too religious” in my blog. I actually hate the term “religious.” That’s just not who I am. I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe He died on the cross for my sins and rose again three days later. I believe that He will come back one day. I believe in a literal Heaven and a literal Hell.

And events like Sunday night remind me how thankful I am that this earthly location is not my forever home.

To live without the peace that Jesus provides seems unfathomable to me on a daily basis, but even more so when events like this occur. I cannot fathom relying on my own fortitude to carry me through events that make no sense and shake us to our core. The only hope I feel in moments like these is that one day, Jesus Christ, “will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have passed away.” [15]

For those who read, and follow, this blog and that “faith” does not describe you: Don’t unfollow, or stop reading. This space is a place for everyone; I’m just sharing where my mind goes, and I’d love to hear more about where your’s goes.

And this blog today is not intended to preach a sermon, there are paid professionals, and those called to do that, and I am not one!

I say all of that to say: I think as Americans we are all still reeling, still trying to figure out how we process this event (and all those like it before), and maybe, just maybe, how we can stop the next one from occurring.

And that’s where I come back to, here’s to the brave ones…

Being brave doesn’t necessarily mean using your body to shield loved ones or strangers.

Fortunately for some of us, we have never been in a situation like that, and God-willing, we never will. But we still have opportunities day in, and day out, to be brave.

Teaching our children not to be bullies, and to stand up to those who are. Encouraging the friend who seems lost. Being the safe place for the neighbor who is escaping a violent relationship. Lobbying for better benefits for soldiers when they return home. Volunteering at the homeless shelter. Donating clothes from our overly-stuffed closets to the halfway home in town. Reposting the suicide hotline on our social media accounts, never knowing who it might help. Mentoring the little boy who is being raised by his grandmother. Adopting the little girl who has been in foster care for her entire life. Donating blood at the local blood drive. Running the 5K for cancer awareness. Building the house with Habitat for Humanity. Babysitting for the single mom, for free. Treating the friend who has lost her job to a day of pampering and encouraging her to believe in herself again. Joining the Junior League and donating your time to the local food bank. Doing cleanup during the next natural disaster.

There are a million ways to be brave.

Being brave is defined as, “strong in the face of fear; courageous.” [16]

Often times we miss opportunities in life because we don’t see their value. We look at tasks as mundane, or “not that big of a deal.” But the truth is, we never know how much of an impact our actions will have. We never know just how big of a deal our actions are to someone else.
While we can never get back the lives that were lost Sunday night, we can take steps today to be brave in their honor.

Do the things that cross your mind for a friend. Go give blood. Make a donation to a gofundme page of one of the victims.

But whatever you do, don’t sit idly by and watch the world unfold.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” [17]

Not everyone’s story in life will include a horrific tragedy like the one that took place on Sunday night. But everyone’s life has a purpose. And if nothing else in life, just loving those around you could be monumental to that person’s life.

So go do something today in memory of the 59 lives lost on Sunday night. Go do something in honor of those who stepped up during those horrific moments and ran into danger, and not away.

The old saying always was, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Don’t leave the lessons of this tragedy there, take the stories of those who lost their lives and honor their memories.

Here’s to the brave ones…


Photo Credit: James Walsh