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Tragedy Reveals Strength of Las Vegas Residents


Residents of Las Vegas, a city famous for glitz and gambling, are still coming to grips with the town's new distinction as the scene of one of the worst mass murders in modern U.S. history.

The tragedy is letting the rest of the world see another side of the town known as "Sin City," as the community rallies around the hashtag #VegasStrong.

The city's famous Strip — a stretch of road lined with fancy hotels and casinos — is now also home to makeshift memorials for those who died.

Memorial to the victims along Las Vegas Boulevard, between the Mandalay Hotel and Resort and the concert venue.
Memorial to the victims along Las Vegas Boulevard, between the Mandalay Hotel and Resort and the concert venue.

Among the Las Vegas residents who were out Wednesday to honor loved ones killed or injured in the attack was Samantha Ross, who lost a cousin and two friends in the attack.

"I'm angry," she said. "I want to scream, I want to cry, I just want to sleep. I haven’t been able sleep very much. I look at the Mandalay Bay [the hotel from which the shooter opened fire] and I want to scream. I’m glad the guy’s dead.”

But she’s also thankful. She had tickets to the outdoor concert that was the target of the mass shooting, but couldn’t go because her children were sick. Instead, she had to explain the killing of 58 people and the maiming of nearly 500 others to her 5-year-old.

“I said a bad guy did something. And a lot of people got hurt. I just told her the truth, in way a kindergartener would understand.”

At another memorial site, several men read the 23rd Psalm — the one about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. One of them told VOA they drove to Las Vegas from California.

"We believe in Jesus Christ and he says, 'My own peace I give you,'" Armando Gonzalez said. "That’s the reason we are here, because we need that peace in our heart.”

At a hotel further up the strip, in a city used to policing casinos for gamblers who want to cheat, security officers now look for guns.

In the days after the shooting, some hotels set up metal detectors to scan guests. Now, they just search golf club bags for weapons. It's still not known how the killer, Stephen Paddock, got 23 guns into his hotel room.

Stacey Disney thinks about those firearms and remembers a recent talk she had with her children.

“I’d just taken my boys, I have two boys," she said, sobbing. "I hate guns and I was telling them how guns can hurt people."

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    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy, Silver World Medal, AP Broadcaster’s Best of Show, and Clarion award-winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous TV, Radio, Multimedia, and Digital awards for her TV/Web coverage of Muslim Portraits, The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.  Presutti was VOA’s Nathanson Scholar to the Aspen Institute and VOA’s delegate to the U.S. government’s Executive Leadership Program (ELP).

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