At 2 p.m. on the Sunday afternoon of the horrific mass shooting on the strip I was at McCarran Airport, boarding a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, where I would be acting as a tour guide for my sister and her oldest daughter.
Her daughter had recently graduated from the University of Nevada with a degree in psychology and this trip was their vacation together to celebrate. It was their first trip to Europe and they asked me to accompany them on the trip to help familiarize them with traveling overseas.
It had been several years since I had spent time in Europe and as I prepared for this short adventure, I was curious to see what has changed since my last visit. In most European countries, traveling as an American has never really been a problem. It is also common for Germans to travel to the USA during the summer months for their vacations to explore our country. We get many German visitors here in Pahrump heading to Death Valley all throughout the year.
I must admit I had some trepidation as I prepared to fly to Frankfurt. A lot has changed in the world these last few years. Much of Europe struggles with immigration issues and there are questions regarding the long-term stability of the European Union. Terrorism in Europe continues to rise.
Many European countries have a growing movement toward nationalism. I was curious to hear what Europeans had to say about our current U.S. politics. Frankly, I was feeling somewhat embarrassed by our current political situation. But political unrest and upheaval is not uncommon throughout much of Europe, so maybe they would just be amused by our current politics.
The flight was the best kind, uneventful. After 12 hours in the air, I deplaned in Frankfurt and passed through customs. After I picked up my luggage, I headed to pick up the rental car and I turned on my phone. I did not expect to have many text messages or voicemails because with the nine-hour time change it was 4 a.m. in Nevada. But what I saw on my phone shocked me and made my earlier thoughts about our politics seem a bit trivial.
I was in disbelief that such a terrible and horrific mass shooting had taken place on the Strip. My first thoughts were for those who were at the concert and how chaotic it must have been as they tried to save themselves and others from the shooter. My second thought was for my youngest daughter. I knew she had just put in a full week at Sunrise Hospital as a registered nurse and was getting ready to go on a family vacation with her children to Disneyland on Monday. Since she was a trauma and ICU nurse, I knew she would be back at the hospital helping the victims.
That night in my hotel room I turned on the TV and every news channel was broadcasting the shooting and the details as it unfolded. All the broadcasts were in German except CNN International but you could tell that the world was shocked by the event and grieving for our country.
The next day I was in line at the local bakery getting my morning coffee and pastry and conversing in English with the person helping me. A man in line next to me overheard me talking in English and asked where I was from. I told him Las Vegas since I was fairly certain that everyone had heard of Las Vegas, and it was easier than trying to explain where Pahrump was. He said to me, “I am so sorry about what happened.”
He later went on to say that he had visited Las Vegas several times and was always treated nicely.
I had this same conversation several more times over the course of the next six days. Each time I was told how sorry they were for what happened. Never was there any blame for what happened on our politics or on gun ownership. Their comment was simply “there are crazy people everywhere now”.
One young man said to me, “of course now you will hear a lot in the American press that it’s because Americans own guns and that needs to be controlled.” He then said “guns are never going to be taken away from Americans, it’s part of your culture. It only works if you take away all guns from all people and that is not going to happen.”
About 24 hours after the shooting I heard from my daughter. She was OK and finally heading out to join her family in LA. She said she was tired but she would be alright. I wanted to talk to her about it to make sure she was really OK but I knew it could wait, she needed some time to digest what happened.
I returned to Las Vegas on Sunday. Reflecting on the week I was heartened to see how those I came in contact with in Germany viewed the situation as the act of a crazy person and for no other reason. There was no condemnation of America or our society. Only concern and sorrow.
After I got back I got a chance to visit with my daughter and talk about it for a few minutes. She really did not want to dwell on it. She did say that there were over 100 doctors and 100 nurses at Sunrise Hospital that night. She was assisting patients as they came out of the operating room for recovery. She said that it was unbelievable the number of people there for treatment and how hard everyone worked to save lives.
“I never want to have to go through something like this again, daddy.”
I never want you or our society to have to go through it again either, honey.
Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at email@example.com