Gaming industry would be wise not to let October 1 memorial falter

March 22, 2023 7:57 PM
Photo: By mariordo59 from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting site, Las Vegas Village and Festival Grounds, Las Vegas Strip, Nevada, CC BY-SA 2.0,
  • John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports
March 22, 2023 7:57 PM
  • John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports

Like the retelling of another person’s nightmare and despite its unprecedented toll on the community, the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip is likely fading in many memories.

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In a country in which mass killings are disturbingly common, the passage of time and the endless cycle of gun violence have left many Americans with a sense of jaded resignation. No one wants more killing, but no one appears to possess the ability to stop it.

After more than five years, Las Vegas leaders have yet to decide on a proper 1 October memorial. With the goal of determining a fitting statement to the world, the 1 October Memorial Committee is scheduled to meet the fourth Wednesday of each month in the County Commission Chambers at the Clark County Government Center located at 500 Grand Central Parkway.

I write this in part to attempt to generate a discussion on a subject that is still wrenching for some people, but should be important not only for southern Nevada residents and visitors to the Strip, but to the gaming industry as well. Questions of security and general public safety aside, how casino executives handle the placement of a memorial honoring those who were killed and wounded, as well as the army of first responders and civilians who did their best to save lives on that awful night, will be long remembered. 

With that in mind, I recently opened the new book, Vegas Strong: Bearing Witness 1 October 2017. Edited by Roberta Sabbath and published by the University of Nevada Press, it’s a slender 156-page collection of essays and observations that in part attempts to describe the indescribable aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

The book doesn’t attempt a comprehensive journalistic retelling of the night of Oct. 1 at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. The shooting, investigation of the killer, and analysis of the security, response, and aftermath of the event have filled thousands of pages of reports, witness statements, and oral histories.

Given the mountain of evidence already in the public eye, the book’s relatively slim size makes it somehow less daunting than it might have been otherwise.

Inside, UNLV’s dedicated oral historians are heard from and Ashley Primack tells a survivor’s story.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman recognizes the role of University Medical Center and the symbolism of the Healing Garden that was designated downtown in the aftermath of the shooting.

Representative Dina Titus writes of the importance of working to reduce gun violence that has become so commonplace in our society.

Mynda Smith, sister of 1 Oct. victim Neysa Christin Davis Tonks, shares a particularly moving account of the first 24 hours after the shooting. Many will relate to it. No one will find it easy to read.

After reviewing the manuscript for the publisher and reading it again in finished form, I couldn’t help but be reminded that the work of the Memorial Commission goes far beyond the formality of determining a fitting way to honor those touched by such an atrocity. Even as the contents of the Commission’s meetings have fallen from the front page of the newspapers and the top of the 6 o’clock news broadcasts, its work remains important for many reasons.

It’s also important for the gaming industry as a whole to ensure that a proper tribute is completed. Although some marketing gurus might be sorely tempted to bide their time and move on, hoping that the jaded general public files away the tragedy, that would be the worst thing of all.

Let’s hope — no, let’s make sure — that the Commission’s work and the final decision pay deep and enduring respect to the victims and make a Vegas Strong statement about the caring people who live and work under the lights of the gaming and entertainment capital.

I hope that Vegas Strong is the first of many books that attempt to chronicle and honor this devastating event as we work to move forward, while also remembering what so many would prefer to forget.

To finish, the last line of the Introduction seems particularly relevant: “The need to heal never stops as a city never sleeps.”