I’ve lived too damn long! Too many events have been buried in my cluttered memory bank — some good and a few bad.
My first memory of a catastrophe was Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941. I’ve mentioned this a couple of times over my career of reporting the news, or presenting my thoughts about a certain event. As a kid I was lying on the floor, in the front room of my home, reading the funny papers. I looked up and my Mom was crying, my grandfather was turning up the volume on the radio to hear more clearly. The news, of course, was the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan.
My second memory was VJ day, Friday Sept. 14, 1945, in Los Angeles, when it was announced that Japan had surrendered. That day and time was seared into my mind because I was selling newspapers on the corner of Florence and Vermont Ave, when people came rushing out of the bank screaming “it’s over…we won…etc….” I ran over to the bank, leaving my spot on the corner, to ask a lady what was going on, when I heard a crash. I quickly turned to see a car twisted around the telephone pole (wood) on the corner where I was standing. The driver died! I lived!
There were a few more along the line until an event on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas occurred. Of course, we all know that was the day the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I was a sports reporter for Copley News Service in Los Angeles. It was about 10:00 a.m. and I was driving my car, going somewhere, when the Motorola radio (installed by the newspaper) came alive…” All reporters and personnel report to your home base for immediate assignments…” I drove toward my office. But, I wanted to know what the heck was happening, so I tuned the car radio to KNX, and heard the news about the President. I knew it was going to be a long day and night. It was!
I, like a great number of news people all over the world, was having a hard time that day. When we finished getting the paper to bed, left, and headed for the Los Angeles Press Club over on Vermont Ave, where I joined other reporters and news people to imbibe in one of our favorite pastimes. However, this Friday, was not a celebration, but turned into a dirge. It was the worst night of my life up to that time. To see guys who covered WWII, and to watch ladies who were just beginning to be members of the prestigious club, crying, and hugging as I knocked back another Crown Royal was an awakening moment for me. Life was not going to be a bunch of cherries anymore!
And then there was that morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, when my phone rang and someone was telling me to turn on my TV. The rest is now history. I need not repeat that story, as I have continued to run the column I wrote that day every year since.
And, now there is another date that will ring in my head for a long, long time to come. Sunday, Oct 1, 2017 (10/1) will forever be with me. It’s the day my city, a city I have loved and lived in, prospered in, raised my daughters in, was attacked by a lone wolf. A “bum” who had nothing to do with our city other than as a visitor. Why he (I have decided not to mention his damn name) decided that it was time for him to make his name famous, only he knows. His name is infamous now! He joins the group of individuals who have done horrible, despicable things to people, towns, the world. You know the names, I need not repeat them here!
It took him about nine minutes to slay 59 beautiful people, and harm another 515 plus, who were at a vacant lot on Sunday evening to hear some good country music. Some 22,000 had gathered on the converted lot. They had paid to be entertained. Police were on duty (they are off-duty officers who are hired by the venue to help direct traffic, and to help our residents, and guests from out of town, to feel safe). Over the 57 years that I have lived here it has always worked as planned. Ever since 9/11 we citizens of Las Vegas have known that our city was and is in the cross-hairs of some extremist groups, who would do us harm.
Our Metro officers and first responders knew it too! Under the guidance of many various Police Chiefs, and Fire Chiefs, from all departments in Southern Nevada, a schedule of training events would be held so our men and woman would be prepared for the inevitable. Like Sheriff Joe Lombardo told the world this week, “We learned to work together, and it resulted in quick reaction of our first responders coming together without hesitation Sunday.”
I may not have quoted him exactly, gang, but what he was telling the world was that the Police of Nevada, Fire Departments of Southern Nevada, ambulances of Las Vegas, and the hospitals, doctors, nurses, and teammates, trained together for the day something like Sunday would happen. “If you look close at some of the videos or photos, when you see an officer heading somewhere, you will quite often see a fireman next to him,” Lombardo said. “That’s because they were trained to not to wait for clearance, but to head into the trouble spot besides an officer.”
Lombardo is and was rightfully proud of the first responders, the men and women who answered the call to duty that night, doing exactly what they were trained to do — to save life’s! He was proud of the First Responders who were there within a few minutes of the first volley of shots. Lombardo praised the hotel security, who once they discovered that the shots had come from their hotel, immediately started the procedure to find the room location. They very quickly had narrowed it down to two or three floors.
A group of Metro patrol officers took it upon themselves to form a squad and head into Mandalay Bay and head up towards the top of the hotel floors, where hotel security had narrowed it down. Some citizen had heard the shots from the where he was on the 31st floor and passed the word to the group of arriving Metro officers. They immediately went up a floor, and hearing no further shots, waited for the Metro SWAT team to arrive, the men swarmed the floor and the door where the gunmen was located (who had already shot through the door at a hotel security officer, striking him in the leg). The door was blasted down and the “bum” was found dead. The coward had shot himself! He couldn’t have a shootout, no that would take a wee bit of guts. No, like all cowards, he took the easy way out. Killed himself. Wow!!
What has all the various mass shootings proved over the years? One simple thing! Our legislators, state and national, must quit accepting donations from the NRA, and for once do the right thing. Pass a meaningful gun law. The NRA is right when they say the crooks will get their guns anyhow. Yes, the crooks will find a way to buy a gun. But, just about anyone can walk in and buy a pistol, a rifle, an semi-automatic hand gun, and a powerful hunting rifle. I’m all for that! But, to allow just about anyone to own a weapon used in warfare, or a duplicate that can be easily modified into a deadly automatic weapon, that should be outlawed. Keep your membership, they do a lot of good I guess for those who hunt for a living or for food. But let’s get rid of the copy-cat guns that can be turned into an automatic gun of war.
I’m not a member of the NRA, never have been and never will be! I have family that are members. And I adore every one of them. But, they don’t go hunting with an automatic weapon. They use a normal hunting rifle. I have an semi-automatic hand gun in my bedroom. It holds 10 shells. That’s enough to kill someone!
Yes, 10/1 will now be a number that will go down in infamy just like 12/7, 11/22, and 9/11. It’s our very own 9/11!