People observe a minute of silence for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting during a remembrance ceremony on Oct. 1, 2018.
Jason Bean, RGJ
LAS VEGAS — There are no signs that the largest mass shooting in the U.S. happened here when you are inside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
For two nights, I came back to the hotel I used to stay at for an annual sisters trip. I came back to a place that for me has always meant happy times.
The resort known for its wave pool and lazy river always seemed to shine with its golden windows bookmarking the southern end of the bright Las Vegas Strip.
But I was sure seeing those windows on Monday from the pool below would just remind me of the night Stephen Paddock fired hundreds of bullets from the 32nd floor down on a crowd of 22,000 people attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival.
Now, there’s no 32nd floor, one of the few noticeable differences in the casino that bustled with thousands of guests arriving Monday for a convention.
The 43-story building no longer has floors numbered 31 to 55. After the 30th floor, the numbering skips to 56 and goes up to 62.
There’s also more security, especially around the elevators where it was common to see a few armed police officers. I watched a security guard check a woman’s fancy makeup kit, a large box that likely would have gone unnoticed before Oct. 1, 2017.
What happened in Vegas doesn’t seem to be talked about by anyone on the Strip, unless you bring it up.
At first I was shocked that something so tragic seemed to go unspoken of by a casino and its employees. Were they so focused on what this tragedy could mean to tourism? Was it because of the 58 victims, only seven were from Nevada?
So every chance I got, I asked. For 48 hours I brought it up to every server, Uber driver and casino employee who allowed me a few minutes.
Every single one had a story about that night. The people of this city are scared and sad. It didn’t just rock the image of a 24-hour city; it hurt those who live here.
They aren’t talking about it because, maybe, we aren’t letting them as we flock back to Vegas for our conventions, bachelor parties and anniversaries.
They almost seemed apologetic as I heard stories about the terror of that night. No one I talked to knew anyone at the concert, but that didn’t mean they weren’t upset.
They had stories of being on lockdown and hiding in casino refrigerators at restaurants. They talked about where they were that night and how they found out information.
It was only when I started asking questions of the people who live and work here that I started to understand the motto behind #Vegasstrong.
“None of us were alone,” Mynda Smith said at a remembrance ceremony Monday morning. Her sister was one of the 58 killed.
“October 1 brought something none of us were expecting,” Smith said about the hours after the shooting as she waited at the Las Vegas Convention Center for news about her sister.
She said she walked into a room of people waiting to help. She saw news reports of Clark County residents lining up to give blood.
“We found love that came from so many who were there to help us,” she said. “I actually stood with my husband and took a video of the lines of cars that were never ending from people who were dropping off supplies and others that were there to help unload it.”
So as I get ready to leave Vegas, and I look up one more time at those infamous gold windows, I’m going to remember the stories I heard from the people who work here.
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