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The stories of sacrifice and heroism in Las Vegas during the largest mass murder in US history are truly inspiring. There are many out there, but some of them just grab you by the heart and won’t let go. 59 people are dead and 527 are in local hospitals after Stephen Paddock, a 64 year-old man from Mesquite, Nevada, shot into a crowd of over 22,000 at a country music festival across from the Mandalay Bay where he was located on the 32nd floor. He had a suite with two rooms and had two stands set up as far as I can tell. He had 12 or 13 weapons at his disposal. A number of them were illegally converted to fully automatic weaponry. They also found explosives and triggers in his car and homes, as well as 18 other guns. The guns were purchased in at least four states over time. This was well-planned and premeditated murder on an epic scale.
Heroes and witnesses
Taylor Benge is one of the survivors of the Mandalay Massacre. He attended the festival with his sister. She threw herself on top of her brother to protect him from the bullets as they rained down on the crowd. “My sister and I, we started running to the left and every time they shot, we took cover,” Benge said. “My sister, being as noble as she is, she actually threw herself on top of me,” he added, “and was saying, ‘I love you Taylor, I love you.’ And I’ll never forget that.” They both escaped the death trap unharmed. Benge was an agnostic, but not anymore… “I was agnostic going into that concert, and I’m a firm believer in God now,” Benge told CNN, “because there’s no way that all of that happened, and that I made it, and I was blessed enough to still be here alive talking to you today.”
Chris Bethel is an Iraq War veteran from Fort Worth, Texas. He helped LVPD track down where the shots were coming from on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay. He was in Vegas for an IT conference and was staying at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. He was staying just two floors underneath the killer. Shots rang out at about 10 pm Sunday night and Bethel knew the sound all too well from combat. He called the police immediately. “I could just hear the gun shots. Continuously. Just full automatic. There’s explosions going off. It was like, a bomb just went off man. And then there were more gun shots,” Bethel said, according to KTVT-TV.
The only explosion to go off that night was the police using a device to blast through the killer’s hotel door. Bethel could see hundreds of people below running for their lives. “I kept looking at the windows to see if I could see any kind of muzzle flash to see if I could see where the shooter was. I crouched by my front door. In hopes that I might get the opportunity to see the shooter if he ran by and I could identify him,” Bethel said. Shortly after that, the police arrived on the scene… about ten minutes after Bethel placed his call. LVPD called Bethel and told him they found the shooter who had committed suicide before they could get to him.
Bethel’s call may have saved many more lives as he cut Paddock’s party short, but he still feels he didn’t do enough. “I feel like I couldn’t get a hold of somebody quick enough to let them know. And it felt like it took them too long to get over there, to take him out, to get him. It’s actually eating me up inside,” Bethel told KTVT. In my book, he’s a hero plain and simple.
Mike McGarry is a 53 year-old financial adviser from Philadelphia. He was at the festival with his family when hundreds of shots started ringing out. His first instinct was to protect his children. “It was crazy–I laid on top of the kids. They’re 20. I‘m 53. I lived a good life,” McGarry said. Reuters reported the back of McGarry’s shirt bore the footmarks of those who had ran over him in the panicked crowd. They all survived and that is the deepest kind of love, being willing to sacrifice yourself for your children.
Not everyone made it out alive. Sonny Melton, 29, was an emergency room nurse married to a surgeon named Heather Melton. When the shooting began, he ran with his wife, saving her life, but sadly losing his. They were at the festival celebrating their wedding anniversary. “He grabbed me and started running when I felt him get shot in the back. I want everyone to know what a kindhearted, loving man he was, but at this point, I can barely breathe,” Heather said.
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) October 2, 2017
Christopher Roybal was a 29 year-old military veteran who served in Afghanistan. He went to the festival with his mom, Debby Allen. They arrived at different times and were going to meet up. When Debby texted her son, she got no answer. They were on opposite sides of the stage when the gunfire started. “I was trying to run towards wherever I thought he might be,” she said. “This man wouldn’t let me — he kept pulling me away saying, ‘You can’t run towards the gunfire.’” Debby later ran into a firefighter who had been behind her son when he was hit. “He told me my son was shot in the chest — that he said, ‘I was hit, I’m hit’,” Allen said. “They all bent down when the gunfire began and my son just fell back.”
Adrian Murfitt was a 35 year-old commercial fisherman. He visited Las Vegas from his home in Anchorage, Alaska to vacation. Murfitt “was happy to pay some things off and had made some really good money,” his sister, Shannon Gothard, told the AP. He “decided to go out and celebrate and go to the concert and treat himself to something nice and fun.” It would be the last thing he ever did. A friend was with Murfitt as he was gunned down and later notified his family.
Sandy Casey also came from Manhattan Beach, CA. She was a special education teacher and a country music lover. She went to the festival with her fiance and some friends. They were near the stage when she was shot in her lower back. Her fiance tried carrying her to safety, dodging gunfire, but it was too late. “This is unbelievably sad and tragic,” said the district superintendent, Mike Matthews, according NBC Los Angeles. “We lost a spectacular teacher who devoted her life to helping some of our most needy students.”
Carrie Barnette was a 30 year-old longtime worker from Disneyland. She went to Vegas to celebrate a friend’s birthday. “She was always generous and helping everybody in every way,” her mother, Mavis Barnette said. “She loved her nieces and nephews and her sister and brother.” Disney CEO Robert Iger confirmed that Barnette had died on Twitter. “A senseless, horrific, act, and a terrible loss for so many,” he wrote. “We mourn a wonderful member of the Disney family: Carrie Barnette. Tragic.”
Quinton Robbins was only 20 years-old. He took his girlfriend on a date to the festival and would never go on another. She saw him clutch his chest and she thought that since he was a diabetic, it was low blood sugar. She couldn’t have known at that point he had been shot in the chest. He was the oldest of three children and was a student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, my alma mater.
Angie Gomez was also 20 years-old. She graduated high school just two short years ago and her whole life was ahead of her. She had landed a job as a certified nursing assistant and was celebrating at the festival. She was shot three times… once in the shoulder and twice in the arm. She passed away before her longtime boyfriend could get her to a hospital. School officials in Riverside, California, described her on Monday as a determined, but convivial student who loved theater and choir. “We are shaken and saddened by this news,” the district said in a statement. “Angie was a loyal friend who loved her family and will be forever missed by all who knew her.”
Neysa Tonks worked for a southern California-based technology company and had three children. Her employer was Technologent and they confirmed her death yesterday. On a fundraising page, friends recalled her humor and posted photos of her wrapped in toilet paper or flashing a goofy grin for the camera. “Neysa was always down to be silly,” one friend wrote. “More memories than I can count are of her laughing and she had the BEST laugh!! She will be GREATLY and DEEPLY missed!!!”
Susan Smith was 53 and an elementary school office manager and district fixture in Simi Valley, California. She always had a smile for people and never missed a dance recital. “It’s numbing,” a family friend, Suzanne Smith, told NBC Los Angeles. “It doesn’t seem real.” She was at the festival with friends when she was shot down.
There are a lot of stories out there and many are inspiring. Many more are tragic. I spent a lot of time crying over this yesterday… it breaks my heart. I’d like to leave you with the message my friend Councilwoman Michele Fiore put out yesterday:
Pray and Give
As we wake up this morning the sunrises over the greatest tragedy to visit our city since the MGM Grand fire, it is heartbreaking to hear the casualty numbers get higher and higher. It is just hard to wrap your head around this kind of evil existing in the world.
But we are not only Americans we are Las Vegans. We take care of our own. So let’s start by doing a few simple things.
Give blood today with me. There is an urgent need for all types. The donation locations are listed below.
Reach out to any friends or families of the victims you may know and offer your help any way they need it; a ride to the hospital, sitting with them in the waiting room, looking after a child or just being there to listen and letting them know they are loved.
Check in on your friends and family that were there and not injured. They may need a person to talk to.
Take a moment when you see a first responder to thank them for their service.
And finally, take the time to hug your children and loved ones a little tighter. To let the people in your life know you love them. Eat a meal tonight as a family. Truly appreciate the people in your life. They are your true blessings.
We are not only strong; we are Vegas Strong. We will get through this together.
As Elder Ellis said yesterday, “The world is dangerous, and the Lord has commanded his people to not act out of a spirit of fear. The Lord’s answer to hard times is to go forward with faith”.
You can give blood at UMC Hospital, Delta Point 901 Rancho Lane, Las Vegas as well as the following locations through Nevada.
All my love,
Covid variant BA.5 is spreading. It appears milder but much more contagious and evades natural immunity. Best to boost your immune system with new Z-Dtox and Z-Stack nutraceuticals from our dear friend, the late Dr. Vladimir Zelenko.