Humanity shows better and braver face in Vegas

October 9, 2017, 2:01 pm

John Gormley John Gormley

John Gormley is a broadcaster, lawyer, author and former Progressive Conservative MP whose radio talk show is heard weekdays from 8:30 am–12:30 pm on 650 CKOM Saskatoon and 980 CJME Regina.


It has been a week where the mind wanders. And when it does, Las Vegas keeps coming back, after the grotesque violence of a gunman firing hundreds of rounds into a defenseless crowd at a music festival.

Everyone remembers their first encounter with Vegas. Whether a road trip across the desert or flying into McCarran, you arrive and roll down the Strip, bathed in bright lights and non-stop action, just like the movies. Soon you are ensconced in a city that proclaims immodestly but correctly that it’s the entertainment capital of the world.

The trips, the memories, the events, the people—Vegas is bigger than life and, like most great cities, there’s a core of pride, resiliency and confidence. It has been tested.

The details emerge of a monster who lived a secret life but still no answer to the simple question “why?”

It’s easy to think amidst the gushing firehose of information during a senseless slaughter that we live in a broken and terrible world. It’s an obvious and heartbreaking conclusion as we look at the photo gallery of the casualties—dozens of faces of the dead and wounded, people whose smiles radiate in pictures taken at the best times of their lives.

But then we hear the accounts of men and women in the crowd, wounded by gunfire, who lay spread-eagled across others to shield them.

While panic and fear paralyze crowds and push them to flee, for some people it’s a call to action. For every horrific account of someone cut down in the attack, the stories emerged of people—the rescuers and protectors—whose remarkable acts of courage, kindness and selflessness saved others from harm.

Away from the killing ground and beyond the borders of Vegas people empowered themselves by donating to crowd funding efforts for the victims and their families. Within two days, over $9 million was raised.

Closer to home, where four western Canadians died, local funding efforts continue to raise money.

There’s a fund for the family of a young Alberta man, originally from Saskatchewan, fighting for his life. Friends of a former Regina man have raised thousands for his young family that will never see their mom grow old.

One of the ways that numbed people find a sense of purpose in tragedy is to reach out and actually do something. This helps explain how a desperate call for blood donors was met by thousands of people lining up for six hours and clogging donation centers.

We heard the stories this week from at least a dozen Saskatchewanians who were in the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Festival when the bullets began raining down. As they ran for their lives in the terror and chaos that seized the crowd of 20,000, each of them saw incredible acts of bravery and kindness, as people shielded others and herded terrified concert goers to safety.

Outside, they told of being taken to the safety of nearby hotels and spending the night in the company of strangers who, while they gave warmth and support, sometimes didn’t leave their names.

It is not uncommon, in our own insecurities, to fear the crowd. It seems large, unknown and even threatening. But the humanity of the Vegas tragedy teaches us something about the ennobling power of strangers thrown together in tragedy and rescuing one another.

Second World War diarist and Holocaust victim Anne Frank wrote that human greatness lies in “character and goodness.”

In a dark and desperate night in Las Vegas, created by a deranged killer shooting from above, there was human greatness below. More than we knew. And it will endure.