The REAL Las Vegas, Oct 10, 2017
by Fr. Max Oliva
Since another Jesuit is not replacing me in Las Vegas, at this time, I committed myself when I moved to Spokane to a return trip for the first week of each month. And so it was that Providence had me in the city on the day of the horrific events of last week. The whole valley was in shock and disbelief at what occurred on Sunday evening, October 1st: a terrible, senseless tragedy.
But as one of my Las Vegas friends put it:
Evil: 1 Grace: In the thousands
Consider what has happened since:
Long lines of people waiting to give blood. One friend of mine waited 4 hours. People dropping off food and water for those in the lines.
People bringing cases upon cases of water bottles to the five hospitals where the injured were taken.
Hundreds of prayer vigils – in churches, synagogues, mosques, street corners, and in neighborhoods. A friend of mine and I went to Guardian Angel Cathedral on Monday evening for a very prayerful and heart-felt inter-religious service.
A remembrance park with grass and trees was set up in the downtown area in four days!
Hotels, on and off the strip, provided free rooms for families of those who were injured in the attack. Hotel staffs worked extra shifts.
Doctors and nurses worked round the clock in an effort to tend to the wounded In 40 minutes, Kevin Menes, the senior doctor on duty at Sunrise Hospital, saw about 150 patients.
Grief counselors came out in force and volunteered their time.
The GoFundMe account, started by the Clark County Commission Chairman, had raised $8.4 million dollars by Wednesday morning.
And the many acts of heroism at the time of the shooting: people were taken to hospitals in vans and pick-up trucks; police and firefighters and EMTs risked their lives to get people to safety; cab drivers, too, arrived and drove the injured away from the danger; the ex-Marine who commandeered a truck and got people away
and many more selfless acts.
As my driver took me up Las Vegas Blvd, from the south, on the way to the airport on Saturday, we saw billboard after billboard, each with the words “Las Vegas” but with a different third word, like: “Strong” “Resilient” and “Unity.” When we came to the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign we saw families heading in the direction of the 58 white crosses that an Illinois man had installed at the base of the sign commemorating those who had been killed.
The overwhelming support in the Vegas Valley for those immediately affected by the tragedy has given many a whole new way of looking at Las Vegas. The valley does have close to 2 million residents: families raising their children just like any other city. No one should view the city just from the standpoint of the Strip any longer. It is a city of loving, caring, and compassionate people as well.
My gratitude to John Laub, who has lived in Las Vegas most of his life, for his contribution to this article.
Fr. Max Oliva, S.J.
firstname.lastname@example.org, October 10, 2017
Healing and Patience -- November 2017 Follow-up
I hope this update finds you well. I am enjoying the first “crispness” of the yearly drop in temperature in the Northwest. However, although I now live in Spokane, Washington after six years in Las Vegas, my ministry in Las Vegas continues. I spend the first week of each month back in the Vegas Valley. Here in Spokane I am learning how to be patient with the process of adjusting to a very different climate than the desert: patience in finding ways to serve the students and faculty at Gonzaga University; patience in discerning how best to serve the Diocese. Perhaps you too are dealing with some situation that requires the practice of patience.
What is patience? It is the capacity for calmly waiting for ideas, for growth, and for achievement regardless of obstacles in our path. When applied to the aftermath of the tragedy in Las Vegas on October 1st, patience is the virtue much needed for the ongoing healing of individuals and of the community. And, I propose, on three levels: the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual.
The Physical: Five Hundred and Sixty-Four people ended up in five different hospitals following the shooting. Most have now been released, but for many their wounds will require extensive therapy. Over the seven hours after the horror ended those who were critically injured were rushed into ambulances and taken to a hospital. People were also hurt in the panic of rushing for safety.
The Emotional: Research shows that experiencing or witnessing a mass shooting can lead to serious psychological consequences, like: anxiety and depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These emotions for many will take a long time to heal. Research further shows that symptoms vary from person to person – from grief to fear, from nightmares to survivor’s guilt for living when their friends or members of their family died at such an event. Sherriff Joe Lombardo said recently that 400 police officers needed counseling after the shooting. Experts say it is very important to recognize symptoms that might need attention from a mental health care professional. (These comments are taken from an article in the Las Vegas Review Journal, by Jessie Bakker, October 7-8, 2017, page 2 AA)
The Spiritual: The healing of the spirit – personally and communally – began on October 2nd with an inspiring number of vigils: in churches, synagogues, neighborhoods, and on street corners near the Strip. A friend and I attended the service at Guardian Angel Catholic Cathedral; people came from many faith traditions to support one another and to pray for those who were killed and for their families. Prayer services continue to this day in the Valley.
It is not unusual to ask, where was God in this terrible event? We know that suffering is a mystery and that sometimes all we can say in the face of tragedy is: “I believe You are a God of love, help my unbelief.” A few days ago I came across the following passage from Psalm 94:
“The Lord will not abandon his people…..Were not the Lord my help,
my soul would soon dwell in the silent grave. When I say, ‘My foot is
slipping,’ your mercy O Lord, sustains me.”
It is definitely God who sustains me and helps me to be at peace despite the evil actions in the world.
The Spiritual, Part II: A second definition of patience is – an ability or willingness to suppress annoyance when confronted with delay. This definition can be applied to the natural human need for closure, for making sense out of the senseless. We want to know why someone would do such a horrific action that killed 58 people. But investigations take time, painstaking time. Patience here means trusting that the proper authorities are doing their best to finding out the “Why?” It also means avoiding jumping to conclusions, conspiracy theories, and distrust of authority.
Finally, we need the virtue of Hope. Hope that recuperation will happen. In time. And with the help of the community.
Fr. Max Oliva, S.J.