A couple of weeks ago, following the Las Vegas shootings that resulted in the deaths of 58 people, I wrote in this space of an account of the event by a local 7th-grade girl who had been in Las Vegas with her father at the time.
She is one of three students I meet with an hour each week at Big Picture School in Burien to discuss writing.
I included a part of her account verbatim, and a B-town Blog reader, who goes by the name “Wondering,” inquired if he or she might be able to see the entire piece.
I wanted to comply with that reader’s request for a couple of reasons:
First, this student had not been assigned this article in our writing class. She had taken the initiative to write it, and I believe that initiative should be encouraged.
Second, I find her willingness to continue polishing her writing in an effort to improve it also commendable. I would guess there are few writers at any age who, on returning to their writing after a time away from it don’t see ways they could have done it better.
Again, this should be encouraged, I believe, particularly among younger writers.
We briefly discussed this. She said she would be willing to have the piece published in its entirety with some updating, which I approved. At my suggestion we agreed not to put her name on it.
I wanted to do routine editing of it, which would normally be done prior to publication, but, except for minor corrections and shortening a few paragraphs, I left it in her hands, and here is the result:
“On October 1 I was in Las Vegas on vacation with my father. While I was in the city, a huge mass shooting occurred during the annual Harvest Music Festival.
“I remember exactly what I was doing when it happened. I was in an Uber only nine minutes away from the event. Thinking back, if that Uber driver had made one wrong turn, or even taken a different route, I’d have been right there in front of it all — but he didn’t so I had no idea; no one did.
“According to the news and other papers and blogs, the shooting went on for around 11 minutes. And in just those 11 minutes this one man stopped 58 people’s lives, and sent over 480 more to the hospital. Maybe if they hadn’t gone to that concert, or maybe if he hadn’t checked into that hotel, it wouldn’t have happened. Who knows?
(NOTE: Here I eliminate a few details of the attack that the writer took from news reports with attribution–Cliff)
“I remember when I found out what had happened. I woke up to my phone going off like a fire alarm — ding ding ding, ding ding ding. There were a good deal of messages from my family and friends asking if I was okay, and I told them everything was fine. Evidently I was wrong. I turned on the T.V and there I saw it: Las Vegas shooting : At least 59 killed as gunman opens fire at concert!
“I remember reading those words, again and again. It were as if I didn’t understand: my mind couldn’t comprehend what had happened. I sat on my bed for like two minutes in silence, alone. I was trying to figure out what it meant. It was in Las Vegas? Where had it happened? Who did it? Why? Questions filled my mind.
“The rest of my trip was different. I watched Las Vegas change. From that night on it was like a completely different place. There were fewer people on the street, almost every event and show were shut down, even things that just happened everyday.
“Instead of ads on every big bright screen that covered buildings, cars, and billboards, there were quotes and messages to the people of Las Vegas telling them “to stay strong”. It was as if people were trying to make things normal, but were failing. It was so much quieter. It didn’t even seem like Vegas. It was like the whole city went on lockdown. Even parts of the strip shut down, and a lot of businesses weren’t open.
“After seeing and watching all these people deal with something this drastic, I began to think. I watched one of the most exuberant places in the world pause. And hold its breath.
“I luckily wasn’t involved or at the concert, but I was in that city, and it was different than just reading about it in the news, because I saw things in way where it was real.
“I honestly don’t fully understand, no one really does. We don’t know why this man did what he did, but we do know that in just a half an hour our history was changed, horrible things happened, horrible things that 22,000 people witnessed, and that’s damage that’s going to take a long time to repair.
“But, people are recovering from injuries, from trauma, just from the news that it happened. Every person who was there is hopefully getting better. But, I don’t know if this will really ever go away, will people ever feel as safe? Everyone’s so worried about Vegas, but I personally believe that this didn’t just change Las Vegas — it changed the world.”
Cliff Rowe is a retired journalist and journalism professor. (He practiced both in a time before journalists and what they produced were considered “enemies of the people.”) He and his family have lived in the Shorewood area of White Center (then Burien) since 1969 when they returned to the Northwest after seven years in the Chicago area. There, following graduate school, he wrote and edited with the Chicago Sun-Times and with Paddock Publications in the Chicago suburbs. On moving here, he was with The Seattle Times for 11 years before turning to teaching journalism at Pacific Lutheran University for 35 years, retiring in 2015.