What happens in Las Vegas … impacts the world

Dr. Myra Salcedo , Mesa Journal News Advisor


]On Oct. 2, 2017, I was a bit surprised to find the flags at The University of Texas of the Permian Basin not flying at half-staff in the morning. A horrendous national crisis occurred in my hometown, Las Vegas, Nevada, where I lived from kindergarten until I graduated from Edward W. Clark High School in the late 1970’s.

On Sunday night, Oct. 1, as the crowd ( estimated to be about 22,000 concert-goers by CNN)  listened to headliner Country singer Jason Aldean on street level. Erstwhile,  Stephen Paddock, 64,  smashed two windows of his hotel suite — one in the front and one on the corner — and fired into the crowd. The latest count killed 59 and injured more than 500 others.

I was very young when my family migrated from my birth-town of Santa Barbara, California (because my brother and I had asthma aggravated by the coastal air) to Sin City, Lost Wages, and as every game show host would announce: “You have won a trip to FABULOUS Las Vegas!” (They always mispronounced Nevada but the FABULOUS was always there).

When I was four years old, Las Vegas was about the combined size of Midland/Odessa, Texas (population approximately 250,000) with churches on near every block hoping to save the souls of gamblers and other sinners.  My birthday is in mid-October and we always celebrated with homemade Halloween costumes, a Halloween theme and best of all, a witch piñata. And Halloween was an amazing holiday. Neighbors began (days in advance) creating caramel popcorn balls, cinnamon red candy apples and caramel apples on a stick. Of course, there were Necco Wafers and more. However, most folks tried to outdo each other with baked and homemade treats.

Then hundreds of kids and families would swarm the streets before dusk to bring their containers to reap the goods door-to-door. It was an exciting time in the Halle Hewetson Elementary School community to see block loads of friends and neighbors greeting each other and having an extreme sugary feast on the road in front of our house on Wendell Avenue. It is something that I tried to explain to my children since they never experienced such an event. This is because (by the 1980s) Halloween had not become so safe. Homemade goods were discarded for pristine unopened candies. We went to the homes where we knew the people. No more dropping off kids in the best neighborhoods for the most-expensive goodies and waiting in cars while they went to the homes of “strangers.” There were few strangers. We were all Las Vegans.

October has always been my favorite month. Yes, I already have pumpkins on the patio. Now, it will be a month of remembrance. All of my relatives have passed away in Las Vegas, largely from cancer. I do not go “home” so often anymore. The city has changed and the population has expanded exponentially. However, I still feel like it is home when I see the mountains beyond the palm trees. There are great Broadway shows, a wonderful university, and more in Vegas for the citizens who call the tourism city home.

Now, something inexplicable and terrifying has occurred in what had become the Disneyland for Adults. I teared up walking to my English Composition course on Monday morning, Oct. 2, wondering what I was going to say to 25 students so isolated in West Texas from such a horrific event.

I walked into the classroom, turned on the Internet and started projecting the news. They had to know that the world we live in changed again. They had to know that attending something as innocent as an outdoor country concert in Las Vegas, and an indoor club in Orlando might have consequences. But why do they have to know these things? Do we need to remain in our homes and hide? This just cannot be happening. This did not happen in my hometown. I am grateful that the blood banks were out of staff and supplies to accept blood from some Las Vegas citizens who waited in line for up to eight hours to donate blood. I am grateful to see the outpouring of help and assistance. But how do we repair the grief? Whatever happened to the days when children could run free in the streets, stay out until the streetlights came on and accept baked goods on Halloween from all neighbors? What is happening to America, and to my hometown? There are millions of good people in this country. Why should one person be able to destroy and terrify so many lives? Why is it legal to own machine guns and silencers in Las Vegas? What has happened to being safe in the streets, even as children? How I miss those days. How I regret the world that my grandchildren are living in. What I regret about my hometown.