Almost a year ago, I woke up on a Monday morning in Rome.
As usual, I grabbed my phone and began scrolling through social media. On Twitter, one odd tweet stuck out to me; it read something like “Rylie and I are safe and okay.”
Moments before, I had commented on a picture my sister, a senior in high school, had posted on Snapchat and almost simultaneously with me reading the tweet, she replied asking if I had seen what was happening.
She told me there was a terrorist attack happening on the Strip and at the Route 91 Harvest Festival that she was supposed to be at with her friends. She told me she was scared. Though I did not yet understand what was happening — it was around 8 a.m. in Rome and 11 p.m. in Las Vegas and no one else really knew what was happening either — I told her not to be scared and to try to get some sleep.
Over the course of the next few hours, I constantly refreshed Twitter and Google, trying to gather as much information as I could.
With every rise in the casualty count, my heart broke. I woke up to reports of a shooting and within two hours, the death toll was over 50 and injuries were in the hundreds.
Shaken, I dragged myself to the onsite counselor to try to debrief before I had to go to class. Out of about 200 students, I was the only one from Las Vegas at my study abroad program; I felt completely isolated from my home and alone in my grief.
I thank God every day that my sister was not at the concert like she was supposed to be, like she was the night prior. I thank God that out of 58 people, I did not personally know anyone who had been killed. A girl I grew up with, my neighbor who still lived one street over, was there. It turned out, Rylie wasn’t quite OK, though thankfully alive. Originally, she had been safe, but when trying to make a further run for safety, she was shot in the back, a bullet fragmenting in her spine.
The months following the shooting, I followed Rylie’s recovery closely, getting to visit her when we both returned home at the same time from very different experiences — her from a tough few months at a rehabilitation facility, me from an extraordinary semester abroad.
I hadn’t seen her in years, despite living so close, but that didn’t matter. I was so grateful that she was alive, in front of me and walking even when they thought she might not be able to again. Rylie inspired me over the course of the last year and continues to inspire me today.
Las Vegas itself has inspired me. Though my fondness for my home has grown over the last three years I have been away at college, my love and pride of it have exploded since Oct. 1, 2017.
It’s a weird place to grow up in, and I’m asked about that experience often. Regardless of what I say, the truth is that I love my city. Home is where you see the glimmering lights of the Strip as you’re flying in at night. It’s where there are slot machines in the airport, where you tell people you’re from, even though you’re technically from, Henderson. That doesn’t matter.
After the shooting, Southern Nevada came together, we were all Las Vegas. We were all heartbroken and angry and torn apart about what happened that night.
And the thing is, it’s still not over. While in many mass shootings, they piece together the mindset of the shooter, a year later we still have few answers.
Honestly, we will probably never know why he did what he did, and that’s a hard pill to swallow. It’s hard to accept something like this and not have a reason to blame.
But life goes on.
Our Vegas Golden Knights brought us together and continue to give us strength and something to believe in. No one has forgotten what happened, and no one will.
I’ve been dreading this day for the past few weeks, agonizing over reliving the emotions I faced abroad; how can I even begin to imagine what the survivors are feeling? What about the families and loved ones of those 58 people who never made it home?
This isn’t a plea for you to think about gun control — that's a conversation for another time.
It’s just a plea that as you go about your life, you take a moment to think about my city — pray for it, send good vibes, whatever your thing is. We appreciate it and we use it to continue to be Vegas Strong.
Taylor Tyrell is a senior studying Classical Civilization.