By Lisa Whaley
Monday morning — long maligned as a sad end to the weekend — was especially dark this week.
For most of us, sipping coffee as we got ready for work, it was the moment we first learned of the horrific shooting in Las Vegas Sunday night.
The death toll is still rising at press time, but news reports indicate that during a Jason Aldean concert, part of a country music festival that weekend, a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel, targeting the concert crowd.
Current estimates are more than 50 dead, and more than 500 injured, making it the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
As we sat horrified this morning, watching the TV screen or reading articles in newspapers or online, or listening to reports on the radio, we recognized disturbing similarities to previous tragedies both here and abroad.
The suddenness of the attack. The happiness of the crowd before it all began. The heroism of those involved.
But there were also things that didn’t fit with what we have sadly come to expect. Though the Islamic State militant group was quick to claim responsibility, the shooter was a white 64-year-old man named Stephen Paddock, not a young radical from another culture.
There was also no obvious — or even not-so-obvious — reason for the attack. Police are still investigating, but initial reports showed no criminal history or indications of earlier criminal behavior from the shooter.
And the location of the attack seems so unremarkable. In this case, certainly, no American in his or her home could make themselves feel safer by saying ‘Well, I’m not in that group,” unless you considered country music itself a possible motivator or have vowed to never set foot in Las Vegas.
Right now, in fact, there seem to be so many more questions than there are answers. In the next several days, I am sure details will continue to unfold.
But several things in this tragedy are still standing out sure and true.
The first is the bravery of our fellow Americans and the courage of our first responders. Just last month, Erwin residents gathered together to pay tribute to the sacrifice of local first responders, recognizing their crucial role in keeping all of us safe. Examples of their bravery keep being repeated again and again. Las Vegas is just the most recent one,
That bravery didn’t just come from first responders, but from potential victims as well. Report after report has surfaced of fellow concertgoers risking their own lives to look out for the wounded and to help those in need.
This is the America I am so proud to be a part of.
The second truth is that we here in America have a problem — not one to become immune to as I fear we might, but one that we must solve.
Whether the answer is found in prayer; more kindness and compassion and less hate and anger; better mental health opportunities; or new laws — I don’t know which or in what combination — something needs to be done and done now.
I think I’m going to start with prayer and go from there.