As the gathered media were peppering Las Vegas and Nevada officials with questions, the mayor was asked, “What do you need?”
She said, “Blood. Lots and lots of blood.”
And so, America was once again visited by one of its tragically familiar rites of passage: an unimaginable mass murder, and a record one at that.
The press had gathered Monday in the aftermath of the shooting late Sunday evening, Nevada time, Oct. 1, when a lone gunman firing from the 32nd floor of the lavish Mandalay Bay Casino killed 58 people, part of a crowd of 22,000 who had come together for the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival of Country Music. Hundreds more were injured.
The number of fatalities eclipsed last year’s 49 dead at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub. The shooting — a rapid, crackling sound of gunfire — began just as Jason Aldean, a country music superstar fit for the millennial age, began the first song of the last set. People in the crowd soon realized something was wrong, as individuals fell, screams filled the air and many began to run. Aldean stopped in mid-song and retreated to the back of the stage.
The firing continued until a SWAT team burst into a room and found the alleged shooter, Stephen Paddock, dead of an apparently self-inflicted wound.
Paddock, 64, reportedly a retired accountant, was heavily armed, with a cache of 10 rifles and automatic weapons.
There were countless reported acts of heroism — people throwing themselves on others to protect them, others applying bandages and pressure to bleeding wounds.
President Donald Trump gave a brief and measured speech Monday, dressed in a black suit, a white shirt and a striped tie. His tone was at turns mournful, spiritual and fatherly. He lavishly praised the work of police and EMS units and called the massacre an “act of pure evil.”
“Scripture teaches us the Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. We seek comfort in those words, for we know that God lives in the hearts of those who grieve,” the president said.
“We call upon the bonds that unite us, our faith, our family and our shared values,” he continued. “Our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence, and though we feel such great anger at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens, it is our love that defines today. And always will. Forever.”
The president, who is scheduled to visit the hurricane-wrecked island of Puerto Rico Tuesday, said he would visit Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Little is known about the alleged shooter. He was said to have visited Las Vegas often to gamble. But even his family knew little about his activities or feelings and was stunned by the news. “I felt like it was getting hit by an asteroid. If you asked me that could happen, you might as well say he killed my kids,” said Eric Paddock, a brother. “There is just no way. He wasn’t interested in politics or religion. I had no idea he had guns.”
He said, “If it were me, I’d be asking who gave him those guns.”
A neighbor in Mesquite struck a similar tone. “He never said anything. Nothing. It was like living next door to nothing.”
The descriptions were like echoes from the Beatles song “Nowhere Man.”
Watching the videos as the sound of gunfire began, you could see the iconic Mandalay sign, a McDonald’s sign, the indelible images of people running in panic — the start of another American nightmare.