I’m not one to share much, in-person or online. I have a hard time opening up, reaching out, letting in, or being seen. I enjoy being private, being behind-the-scenes and often going unnoticed. I’m notoriously bad at returning calls. This site (shared with my sister) was supposed to help with that, and though it’s been sitting here silently for quite some time – I’ll use it now to get out the thoughts and feelings I can’t bottle up for fear of festering, or with any luck will reach someone and make a difference in the way they are feeling.
On Sunday, October 1st, I was inside the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas with my favorite person/husband, Kyle, our best friend and college match-maker, Craig, and his wife/our friend and confidant, Kate (not to be confused with my sister Kate, who was safely overseas). I didn’t share that I was going to Vegas with many – not my family, my friends or even my colleagues who I see every day. I didn’t share anything on social media, because social media is just not something I’m very interested in. But as the night unfolded, I wished I’d told anyone. Everyone.
We ate dinner at a restaurant I recommended, I led us there – that is going to stick with me. We passed the Route 91 concert going on from the tram. We ate our dinner, we decided to go back to our hotel up the Strip. As we closed out the check and got up to leave, we were stopped and asked to stay on the patio. We checked our phones. “Active shooter situation reported at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.” Maybe 3 minutes later, we were being rushed out with a huge crowd of people to a service area. Craig tweeted a thread of his feelings on the experience, summing up this moment: “the eeriness of being corralled to a bland beige and concrete service entrance after spending days in the sensory overload of Vegas,” and “…how the sight of a gun would make me uneasy, even when it’s carried by a “good guy.”
We were told to move, run for a second time – leaving the uncertainty of the service area and going back into the hotel. We climbed a staircase, Kyle held my back as I watched behind us – making sure no one suddenly sprung up behind us with the automatic weapon we knew from news reports was being used to impact as many people as possible, in as little time as possible. We walked, light-jogged down the corridor toward the convention center – a walk I’ve made hundreds of times in my annual trip to Licensing Show. If I can be thankful for anything in this situation, aside from the fact that my people were with me and we hadn’t gotten separated, was the fact that I know the Mandalay Bay so incredibly well and knew exactly where I was at every moment.
We made it outside. Hundreds of people meandering about the service lot, not sure where to go. My brain instinctively telling us to move to part of the lot obscured by large metal service boxes – something to block us. A helicopter swirls overhead yelling inaudible directions. “Run.” That’s all we needed, we were off. We paused about a mile down the road, catching our breath. More first responders than I’ve ever seen flying toward the building we fled, still with no idea where the danger was, or if it was following us. I remember watching a man, likely inebriated, approach two military-dressed officers and dangerously confronting them, cell-phone (surely recording) in hand. Why on Earth…
And again, “You are not safe here, move. Move.” We kept walking. We paused again up the road, but not for long before needing to move again. We made it to a restaurant for some temporary shelter – the immediate danger behind us. The restaurant closes, leaving us with nowhere to go. We get on a bus bound for UNLV, equipped with resources for all of us who had been displaced. As we pulled up, we could see the Strip – both comforting that it was close, but still uncertain of if the attack was isolated or if more than the Mandalay was in danger. We filled out our voluntary police reports inside the stadium and listened as others talked about where they were, how they got there and who they were still trying to contact.
The harrowing part of our night began at roughly 10:30p. We made it back safely to our hotel rooms at 3am, and back to Los Angeles by 8am. Kyle and I stayed home, processing our shock and calling family and friends. We knew then what the country was waking up to then realize: we had been evacuated from the scene of the largest mass shooting of modern-day America… and we are so very, very lucky.
I’m writing this down so I don’t have to call and tell you. I’m writing it down so that you know where I was, where I am and where I will be – I’m about to leave for London on Friday for work. I’ll get to see my sister in Germany the weekend after. I’m writing this down because I needed to, not because I wanted to. I didn’t know what else to do.
There is something very wrong here, but you knew that already (I hope). I don’t care your color, your political party, your religion, your orientation, your medical history, or just about anything else. I care about the children our country is shaping – for my niece, Jovie, and my soon-to-arrive niece or nephew I’ll call “Boo.” I care about humans. I care about our rights. I believe in the 2nd Amendment. But I also believe in CONTEXT, ACCOUNTABILITY and COMPASSION.
Context. In some areas, including where I was raised, police protection isn’t just a phone call away. It could take 45-minutes to more than an hour to get to someone in need, to an emergency. Growing up, I knew I was protected from within my own house by parents who were responsibly trained with firearms in the event we were in danger. I knew and still know how to operate a firearm. I believe we have the right to protect ourselves. However…. context. The 2nd Amendment became law before automatic or semi-automatic weapons were fathomable. Reloading a ball and gunpowder took longer than firing through today’s standard clip of bullets. Is this what we were working towards? Our forefathers wanted to make sure we were capable of taking as many lives in as little time as possible? Congratulations – we’ve just set a record. Are you proud?
Accountability. Further to the context of what our forefathers of this great country of ours had envisioned for us – did they not expect us to adapt, grow and continue to hold each other accountable? We’ve since made automobiles standard and such – safety and insurance regulations, licenses and tests. Cars are machines capable of destruction, and we are tested and held accountable for our actions. No civilian needs an automatic weapon. And no civilian without proper training, licenses, background and mental health checks should be able to possess a firearm. If you are a responsible and legal gun owner, I hope you agree that we have to hold each other accountable and that the less unnecessary people holding guns means the less likely you will need yours. Now more than ever we should be asking for policy change to put precaution in place. I watched this piece from Jim Jeffries a few weeks ago – following a day-in-the-life of UK police – and it stuck with me, especially now. “Maybe they rarely fire a shot, because they don’t have shots fired at them.“
Compassion. Jimmy Kimmel, he may be the King of Compassion. If you haven’t watched his response to the violence in his hometown – the violence Kyle, Craig, Kate and I were directly impacted by – you should. Now is the time to politicize, to close the loopholes, to show the faces of the congresspeople who aren’t supporting what a majority of this country – party affiliations aside – are in favor of: stricter gun control. And look, I’m not going to argue with you about party lines, or whether gun control would make a difference. If we don’t try, how will we know? Is it really so hard to try to make things better? What is it we tell the kiddos, like Jovie or “Boo”? Try, try again. Treat people the way you would like to be treated. Be grateful with what you have. Life is short – something I already know all too well – and now I’m reminded once again.
We are OK, all things considered.
If you read this, great. If you didn’t, that’s OK. If you can make a difference, please do. Join Everytown for Gun Safety. Be good to each other.