POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y.— An unexpected casualty struck in Las Vegas, Nevada, on the night of Oct. 1, 2017.
Concertgoers were fearful of their lives that night as hundreds were left staggering about the venue trying to flee the scene as quickly as possible without getting shot. Individuals were being taken randomly in vehicles and many were separated from family and friends by the end of the night. The only sounds that were heard while this horrific tragedy ensued were the sounds of the individuals crying for desperate help.
Stephen Paddock, 64, maliciously fired hundreds of rifle shots from a hotel room in the Mandalay Bay Casino towards patrons at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, killing 58 people and leaving 546 injured. This unthinkable tragedy is the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the United States.
The impact from this tragedy had rippled all the way to Marist College. Junior Bri Panasiuk is from Las Vegas and has lived there her entire life. She was very open and honest while discussing her thoughts surrounding this jaw-dropping incident.
“I didn’t know about it until the morning after it happened,” Panasiuk said. “I woke up to a text from my best friend who is still in Las Vegas and she said, ‘don’t worry I’m safe’ and I didn’t know what she meant.”
It wasn’t until after she had checked the news on her phone that she realized the true magnitude of what had happened. Panasiuk’s mother had called her that same morning to explain the details of the shooting during the country music festival. Her mother also reassured her that everyone she knew was safe and at home. By the time Panasiuk and her mother had gotten into contact, the death count had risen to 50 while an additional 400 people were wounded. Panasuik later mentioned how she attended her freshman year of high school with two girls who were shot in the back while trying to escape, and they are currently in critical condition.
Panasiuk was genuinely shaken and affected by the tragedy that occurred in Las Vegas. It was the first time she realized this event was something unlike anything she’s ever experienced.
She explained that when she informs people that she is from Las Vegas, their initial reaction is, “Oh, that’s really cool!”
Things weren’t as rosy in the aftermath of what had transpired. Just two days after the shooting, she was interviewed and after stating her residence, the interviewer said, “I’m so sorry.” This unexpected reaction was definitely hard for her to comprehend at the time.
Today, Las Vegas is still recovering from the incident.
“One thing about Las Vegas is whenever tragedy strikes the community we all try to help in any way we can,” Panasiuk said. Las Vegas’ communal initiative to raise money to help the city recover is on full display. She explained how the middle school that her nephew attends began selling T-Shirts that read: “Vegas Strong.”
All proceeds from the sale of the shirts go to the families and friends of the victims. The morning after the shooting, lines to donate blood in Las Vegas stretched for blocks and wait times were as long as six hours or more. Right now, millions of dollars have also been raised to help victims and their families recover from the incident. Donors from all over the world have contributed more than $15 million so far for victims of the Route 91 Harvest shooting.
There are also several GoFundMe accounts which were created by family and friends of the victims. GoFundMe is associated with the Direct Impact Fund, an independent, registered nonprofit organization which allows people to raise money for events ranging from celebrations and graduations to accidents and illnesses. GoFundMe is an easy way to raise money for yourself, others and charities around the world. With the establishemnt of relief funds like this, people around the country now have a vehicle they can use to bring aid to accidents such as the Las Vegas incident. In light of what has happened, Panasiuk remained as positive as one could be when asked about her city. She spoke of how proud she was of her hometown and how her city has persevered despite the tragic events in Las Vegas.
“We are Vegas strong, we always have been, and we always will be,” said Panasiuk.