Rural Nevadans woke up Monday morning to a tragedy that hit close to home, despite the geographical and cultural gulf that separates us from Las Vegas. Nevada is now the state with the single deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Current and former Elko residents were in the city when a gunman opened fire on the crowd of country music fans. It was a senseless act, with no apparent motive, message or link between the killer and his many helpless victims.
Like similar shootings in recent years, this one blurred the line between terrorism and mass murder. Investigators talked about performing a “psychological autopsy” in an attempt to determine why someone with the killer’s background would commit what President Donald Trump labeled “an act of pure evil.” They will also look at possible genetic factors because of his father’s criminal behavior and diagnosis as a psychopath.
For the victims, the terror is real regardless of the assailant’s motivation.
“It seemed like forever,” former Elkoan Keith Moyle told us. “Kept shooting and shooting and shooting. A bullet hit next to me, and it sprayed rocks on my legs.”
In addition to the nearly five dozen people who were killed, more than 500 were injured. Among the victims were Nevada Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Charleston Hartfield, 34, and 12 off-duty firefighters.
“Charleston Hartfield lived to serve the public and protect his family. He is the epitome of a citizen-soldier,” said Brig. Gen. William Burks, the adjutant general of the Nevada National Guard.
The next morning residents formed long lines at blood donation centers.
Giving blood is one of the few physical ways to help victims of mass violence, but the need continues year-round. A blood drive was held in Elko on Friday, with 101 pints donated at Great Basin College.
“We, like so many in Nevada, were devastated to hear about the loss of life and injuries that occurred Sunday night,” said Nicole Frosini, donor recruitment representative for United Blood Services in Reno. “Fortunately, due to donors and the tireless efforts of so many, the blood supply has rebounded and all patients can now rest assure that the blood they need will be available to them.”
Local donors will have another chance to contribute just before the Thanksgiving weekend. Drives will be held at Elko High School on Nov. 20 and Spring Creek High School on Nov. 21.
While bodies lie in hospital beds healing, other people are attempting to deal with the emotional damage.
“As the Las Vegas community wakes up to this tragedy, the Nevada Department of Education stands ready to support students, families and educators in whatever way we can,” said Steve Canavero, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, in announcing an emergency hotline.
Even people who were not at the scene may have difficulty processing the magnitude of carnage caused by the lone shooter. How can parents, teachers or any adult comfort children who are exposed to such violence?
The mass murderer Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, may not have been a terrorist in any political or religious sense, but his actions struck terror in the hearts of everyone who has visited Las Vegas with the hope of escaping reality for awhile.
Reality has struck in our own backyard.
A music festival. An airport. A nightclub. A community college. An elementary school. A movie theater. All places where we should feel safe, and all places where mass shootings have happened in recent years.
We can’t make any sense out of it. All we can do is give our blood, pray for the victims, and praise those who bravely helped others out of harm’s way.