LAS VEGAS — Outside of UMC Medical Center, Melissa Graves, a director of hotel sales, had already been waiting for several hours Monday night to donate blood and would continue to wait longer before her turn came.
Graves, however, did not seem inconvenienced by the long wait as she sat in a parking lot where a mobile blood bank had been hastily set up to take donations. Around her, a flurry of activity played out as medical personnel called volunteers for their turn to donate. Cases of bottled water were stacked nearby and for those hungry, a local Mexican restaurant had set up a stand, feeding tacos to volunteers and hospital workers free of charge.
It was already dark, and Graves, a native of Texas, sat next to Veronika Litvek, a fellow Texan who has called Las Vegas home for 26 years. Strangers before meeting on this cool evening, they became quick friends, keeping one another company as they tried to make sense of the previous night’s massacre.
It was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. At least 59 people died and more than 500 were injured after a gunman opened fire on attendees of the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival near the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
By Monday, Litvek had already donated blood, but nonetheless remained, committed to showing solidarity with the community that had come together in the aftermath of a horrific mass shooting.
“I know they say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” Litvek said. “Unfortunately, we had to make national news, and I don’t like breaking records like that. That’s not the kind of records we look to break. But I’ll tell you what, if you see the thousands of us people lined up this morning, right after the mayor spoke, about needing blood, those are the kinds of records we really break. That’s how people in Las Vegas really are.”
Litvek called the response by the city heartening, showing that in the face of tragedy, locals were selfless and resilient.
Just a few miles away, Rob Morgan, a tourist from Colorado who came to Las Vegas for a convention, was preparing to bring flowers to a makeshift memorial that had been erected near the scene of the shooting.
Morgan’s nephew, Erick Silva, was working as a security guard and was among those killed. “He was a great and awesome kid,” Morgan said. “He took care of everybody, even people he didn’t know.”
Throughout the evening, the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip remained closed as police continued to investigate the shooting. Tourists stopped to take pictures from a pedestrian bridge connecting the Tropicana Hotel and Excalibur, a block and a half away from the site of the country music festival that came under attack by a lone gunman in the Mandalay Bay hotel overlooking the festival site.
Paul Bucacci had just arrived for a week-long vacation with his family and was stunned by the shooting. He said the mood was grim, as people lamented that such carnage had been inflicted on a city often refers to itself as the entertainment capital of the world.
The effects of the shooting, he said, was going to be tough to shake off as his vacation was just about to begin.
(Pictured: Mourners at a candlelight vigil for victims held Monday night at the University of Nevada Las Vegas)