New Year’s Eve was a bit quieter this year on the strip. The weather was warm, and people were on their best behavior. All in all, it was another great celebration and I was happy to broadcast the excitement LIVE from the strip. Happy 2018! Let’s make it a great year! #VegasStrong
It’s been a tough couple of months, that’s for sure. Hurricanes in Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico… a mass shooting in Las Vegas, and now deadly and destructive fires in California.
As a newscaster, it’s been tiring, challenging, but rewarding. I think these events have proven, local news is important, it lives on.
Obviously the one that affected me the most was our very own horrible incident. A mass shooting on the Las Vegas strip. A madman shooting from the windows of his suite at Mandalay Bay down on a crowd enjoying country music at the Harvest 91 Festival. Chaos.
For me it all started with OJ Simpson. I got called into work Saturday into Sunday to anchor coverage with my morning co-anchor. OJ left prison and was on his way to Las Vegas. I got home from a late movie so I grabbed about an hour or so of sleep. I anchored the 5am, 6am, and 8am newscasts Sunday morning. When I got home I didn’t want to sleep too much because I get up early the next morning for my regular Monday through Friday schedule. I went back to bed at 7:30pm on Sunday. I was out cold. For some reason I woke up at 12:10 and my phone was on fire. Work, my brother and mom, my friends back east. There had been a shooting on the strip, people were hurt, people were dead. I realized our night crews had stayed over and we were on the air. I knew work would need me all day so I got myself ready for a long one. I was a bit out of it, scared, nervous, and still half asleep because I was “off ” from the Sunday morning call-in. I took the elevator down to the lobby of my building to head to work by 2:30 a.m. and I was met with people in our community room. They had come in from the festival. One of them, who I have met before, came up to me and showed me the video he had taken. He seemed startled and upset, obviously, he played it for me and that’s when I knew. Gun shots, people running. This was bad.
When I arrived at work there were faces I hardly ever see, evening anchors, weekend crews. My managers were there in shorts and t-shirts. We were on live and had never stopped. I got myself ready and briefed and at 4am our regular morning crews took over, with the help of others. We were feeding information, gathering video, getting texts and viewer emails, listening to police briefings, we stayed on as it developed. Texts came in from friends and family from around the world. Days later, I discovered I answered those texts, but didn’t remember doing it. My brother had flown in for a quick visit and was staying at Treasure Island, he just missed driving by the whole thing. He was up watching me. My friends were watching from across the country on livestream. It was pure chaos. We were emotional but professional and we kept the information flowing. No commercials. Just information. I was at the breaking news desk until about 10 a.m. then I moved in the studio so my co-worker who had been on since 10:30 p.m. could go home and get some sleep. I stayed on the air until about 3 pm, 11 hours straight, no commercials. That was a first for me. We were needed, people counted on us. Hundreds were hurt, at least 50 were dead. This was now the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. I’m not sure it ever sunk in that day. It was shocking.
Our station, KTNV, stayed on the air through the day and night without commercials. Our managers and family members delivered food and drinks. An RV parked in the lot in case someone needed to lay down and take a break. We were prepared to serve the community, just like the thousands that lined up at blood banks. We were here to tell stories and pass on information and gather first hand accounts. We had our chopper up, and a crew in Mesquite where the gunman lived. We were ready. Local news was there.
The days after became more and more somber as we saw the faces of those that died. We saw that people we knew and didn’t know were shot. We heard from the heroes that helped them. We saw the community do whatever they could to help. Give rides, donate water, blood, make memorials, pray. We heard from police that this madman had 10 bagfuls of guns in his room. We saw the chaos from more video that rolled in from inside taxi cabs, on the festival grounds, and outside on the street. We heard police calls and scanner traffic. It didn’t seem real.
We worked long days, we came together. It meant something.
Finally, that Friday I saw the broken out windows for myself. I literally felt like I was going to be sick. The road had opened. Police and network TV crews were everywhere. This was real, and it had changed life in Las Vegas for everyone. It changed the lives of people that were there to celebrate country music and have fun, who came with one person and left on a plane alone. It’s sad. It’s depressing. It’s confusing.
My Mom came to town to visit me. Saturday we went to the memorial at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. It was a beautiful morning. Crosses lined the small patch of property. Flowers, candles, signs that read #LasVegasStrong. People were quiet, respectful, their hearts were heavy. People were thanking me, I didn’t know why. Then they would explain. “We stayed with you during this whole tragedy, thanks for your coverage and information. Thanks for remaining calm.” It was an honor.
I hate that this happened. I hate every single minute of it. But, it has brought out the good in people too. We are all human. It doesn’t matter where we are from, what we believe, how we practice, what we feel… we have one common bond… and that’s love and emotion. We care. I care. My family cares. My friends care. My co-workers care. Strangers care.
We are human.