Remembering to Be Strong

One year ago today, I was getting ready for bed when I got a text message from my brother asking if I was okay. It was confusing at first, because it was much later than he normally texts, and he never asks if I’m okay (we’re not big on small talk; it’s assumed that unless we say otherwise, everything is fine). His wife had told him there had been a shooting at a concert in Las Vegas, and knowing that I go to a lot of shows, he was concerned. Fortunately, I wasn’t there.

I couldn’t go to sleep that night, as I kept reading and watching the reports of what was happening. Videos amplified the sounds of shots being fired while terrified people ran for their lives, tried frantically to help those who had been hit, and cried in disbelief at this senseless tragedy. One by one, people marked themselves as “safe” on Facebook. We heard from friends who were there but had decided to leave early. Friends who were supposed to be there but were running late and didn’t make it. There was an outpouring of love and support from around the world, people just checking in to let us know we were in their thoughts and they were glad we were okay. But so many were not okay.

The next day, there was a palpable feeling of darkness across the city, while we collectively mourned the 58 lives that were taken. Hundreds more were injured, and an uncountable number of people were emotionally affected. But what happened next, while so many were reeling from the aftermath, offered hope. The community rallied together, in a way I’d never seen before in 25 years of living in Las Vegas. People turned out in force to donate blood. They started fundraisers for the victims’ families, getting friends, coworkers, and anyone they could find to help. They reached out to each other, and gave everything they could. For most, this was a time to put all differences aside and just be there for each other.

In the weeks and months following, we remained connected. People started talking to strangers in stores, restaurants, and while passing on the street. “Vegas Strong” was posted on billboards, buildings, bumper stickers, merchandise, and social media. It became a slogan that bonded us, that let us know we weren’t alone. Our newly created underdog hockey team, the Vegas Golden Knights, took it to heart, and paid tribute to the victims throughout the season. Some even say the sense of pride in this city is one of the guiding forces that got them to the playoffs.

#VegasStrong became much more than a fleeting hashtag. It became a representation of this city, which unfortunately is most commonly known for its excess and debauchery. Vegas became a real community, and a resilient one. We showed our hearts, our pride, and our unwillingness to let anything bring us down. One year later, it still shows.

There is so little we can control in life. Our choices and our actions are all we really have. Those who lost loved ones in the shooting will never be the same. And while no amount of optimism can take away the pain of what happened, we can choose to find hope where we can. We can make a conscious effort to enjoy life while we have it. We can be our best selves and offer help to those who need it. How we react in the bad times shows a great deal about our character, about our humanity. But sometimes we have to remind ourselves to choose kindness during the good times, too. Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to realize how capable we really are.

Sometimes, we just have to stay strong.