The Pandora’s box of evil that has increasingly defined America this past decade cracked open once again Sunday night, leaving the nation to grieve the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
One of the terrified survivors, the back of his shirt marked with footprints from fellow concertgoers trying to flee the sniper’s aim, spoke what’s in the hearts of many Americans. Mike McGarry said his only thought was to protect his children: “They’re 20. I’m 53. I lived a good life.”
We all want to safeguard those around us, whether it’s our family, friends or the strangers standing anxiously alongside us in line for coffee, all of us in shock that yet another madman has been at work.
The “whys” that would settle our minds are in short supply. Perhaps that is unsurprising, given the senselessness of the act. But this grim fact is clear: The bad guys just don’t seem to take a day off.
This time the toll is already more than 50 dead. And with at least 500 injured, it’s probably naive to think the body count won’t rise. Already the debates — over gun control, over “which side” this killer was on, over the definition of “a terrorist” — are raging.
Can we just take a breath from the politics and focus instead on the countless fellow Americans whose lives will never be the same?
Ordinary folks who set out to attend a country music festival and wound up in a fish-in-a-barrel horror show.
The shots that spun out in repeated spurts late Sunday came from the 32nd floor of a hotel adjacent to the concert venue near the Vegas Strip. As the gunman picked off victims from his towering perch, he looked down on confused targets struggling to make life-and-death decisions to flee or huddle among one another for cover.
The still-unfolding grim scenes are enough to make us all want to just hunker down at home with our loved ones. #PrayForVegas is the latest of a too-many-to-count march of #prayfor(fillintheblank) hashtags that Americans have awakened to on Twitter.
But we can’t let killers win. Not 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, who took his own life surrounded by a cache of weaponry as law enforcement approached his hotel room. And not any of those evil men who came before him.
Focus not on Paddock’s cowardice, but on the bravery of so many: The off-duty police officers who stood up amid the barrage of gunfire, directing people on what to do. The concertgoers, some trained and some not, plugging bullet holes in fellow concertgoers with their fingers while they awaited first responders. Fathers such as Philadelphia native McGarry, who were determined that their children would survive.
Brave. Selfless. Heroic.
If only the opportunities to show those fine traits weren’t so many.