Students, alumni reflect on Las Vegas shooting


Police officers advise people to take cover near the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas.

Cameron Gorman

A shooting in Las Vegas Sunday night has claimed the lives of at least 59 people and has impacted those as close as Kent State’s campus and as far as the city itself.

“My mom was just there two days ago… she literally got back two days ago, and I’m just really thankful she wasn’t there,” said Kelci Marchetti, a sophomore fashion merchandising major. “… I haven’t talked to her yet today, but I’m going to call her tonight, and just be like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ My grandparents were there with her too, so it’s just like they were all there, and they literally just got back two days ago.”

From Las Vegas, updates on the situation are still rolling in on the incident, reported by those such as Regina Garcia Cano, a gambling and tourism reporter for the Associated Press in Las Vegas, who graduated from Kent State in 2011 with a degree in journalism.

“There’s no access to the actual area where the incident happened, so they immediately blocked off all the areas, so the closer I managed to get yesterday was about two miles, two and a half miles from where it happened,” Garcia Cano said. “So I’ve been talking with basically law enforcement this entire time, and trying to clarify what has been said at their press conferences and just making sure that when they give out a number of people who were injured, a number of people who unfortunately died, that those are accurate.”

Garcia Cano was able to talk to some who escaped from the scene.

“They were really shaken up … you know, shocked,” Garcia Cano said. “You know, you could see that it slowly started to sort of sink in as they were talking more about it, and there were several reporters — pretty much we were all asking the same questions — so I feel like the more they talked about it, the more they realized what they had just witnessed.”

Those attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival, next to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, were fired upon from the 32nd floor of the hotel — a location that Kent State alumni Sean Ammerman, who graduated from Kent in 2006 as a journalism major, was close to.

“I found out about — it was probably like, 45 minutes or so after it happened. I went on Facebook, and a friend of a mine who lives here in Vegas posted something about a shooting on the strip,” Ammerman said. “And my first thoughts were honestly there have been shootings on the strip before — smaller incidences between two people … nothing like this.”

Ammerman, a freelance writer, lives in an area about a 10 minute drive from the scene.

“It is kind of weird, they’re showing the footage of these areas that I know very well, and seeing the videos and everything, it literally made me sick to my stomach” Ammerman said.

He stayed in his residence during the incident.

“I was concerned, and there’s a part of you that just wants to help and not stand by idly, but … there were all sorts of warnings like, ‘Stay away from the strip,’ all that, and there were certain reports of a second shooter or multiple shooters,” Ammerman said. “I really wasn’t sure if it was a larger kind of terrorism situation or what it turned out to be, which was apparently it was an isolated, lone wolf shooter.”

The gunman, since identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, according to the New York Times, was later found dead in his hotel room.

“I think it just gives a sense of, ‘Are we secure in society?’” said Emilie Yusko, a senior recreation park and tourism management major who heard about the incident through the news app on her phone. “I think it just goes to show, just with music festivals, are they safe — like what happened with Ariana Grande’s concert, here’s another thing. So I think it’s becoming a trend now, in music.”

Twenty three firearms were later found to be present in the hotel room of the shooter, according to the New York Times.

“The first thing I did, I texted some friends, asked them about it. I mean, I don’t know, you can’t really do anything … I tried to give blood. The Red Cross said they were trying to get blood sent over there for the victims, but I couldn’t because I had given two weeks ago and there’s a time limit,” said Caleb Large, a freshman aeronautics major. “I mean, it’s awful.”

Large said he believed in second amendment rights, and that he has fifteen firearms on his property — but that control should be increased on how they are obtained.

“I know that, obviously, people will still be able to access them through the black market, which is a big thing, that’s where most of the guns come from that involve shootings. It’s something you can’t really get rid of, it’s like trying to ban cars because there’s auto accidents. There’s so many of them in America, you’re not going to really be able to do anything about it,” Large said. “… Hotels, you should start getting checked at. I just think they should tighten security up.”

Since the shooting, media organizations such as the Washington Post, have run opinion pieces on gun control.

“If there was a way that making some kind of a restriction would help stop this from happening, then, yeah I would be for it. I’m not entirely sure how this particular incident would have been stopped, because it sounds like he mechanically re-engineered these guns to be fully automatic, which is illegal, that’s already illegal,” Ammerman said.

Ammerman said that he felt that the shock some felt about the massacre’s location was not necessarily surprising to those living in Las Vegas.

“Being one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, it’s obvious that Las Vegas is a potential risk to terrorism,” Ammerman said. “I don’t know how many of the names of the dead that they have released, but probably most of them didn’t even live in Las Vegas. These are tourists, these are people from all over the world, and I assume that someone with that kind of mindset — I mean, there’s a lot of people in that one area, so yeah, I know people who work in emergency response and those kind of things, and it’s something that they have thought of and that the city has prepared for.”

The city, Ammerman mentioned, feels larger in the sense that the strip is often crowded with tourists.

“… It’s kind of synonymous with America in a way, so while it may not be New York City or L.A. or Chicago or something like that, it’s a place that I guess would be attractive for sick people who want to cause destruction and gain a lot of attention from that,” Ammerman said.

Others, though, like Las Vegas resident and Kent State alumna Bri Sweetland, who graduated from Kent State in 2004 and now teaches first grade, were more surprised by the sudden threat.

“We go out all the time,” Sweetland said. “On Friday, we were just down at the T-Mobile arena to see Imagine Dragons. We have a lot of friends who go out all the time. We go downtown … we’re out all the time, and I never, ever feel threatened. I never feel like something is going to happen, because most people that you meet in Las Vegas are having a pretty good time. They’re pretty happy.”

Now, however, Sweetland said the incident has made her question security.

“… You can go to hotels here on the strip and go to the pool, and you can see that all of the hotel rooms — what’s to stop people from going out on their balconies and just picking out people off the grounds when they’re by the pool having a party? And they don’t check — hotel security, they don’t check to see what you’re bringing in a room,” Sweetland said.

Sweetland also had friends who were present during the attack.

“I live 30 minutes from the strip, and I had families in my class who were directly affected by it. I mean, lots of police officers, nurses, doctors … one of my friends, his girlfriend broke her leg last night trying to escape,” Sweetland said. “… Even though Las Vegas is big, it’s a small town. Everybody knows everybody else, and the connections run deep, so if you’re not directly impacted, chances are you know somebody who is impacted.”

Since the tragedy, the death toll has risen to 59, and more than 525 injured, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times Monday afternoon.

“I have friends out helping with blood drives, I have friends who are gathering up supplies to take it down to the Thomas and Mack Center where people who have been displaced by it are staying. They’re going to be delivering water, food, snacks. I have friends organizing drives to bring out water and food and supplies to officers who’ve been working for the past 24 hours who haven’t had a break,” Sweetland said. “I mean, our town has really come together it seems, to help people, but it’s just sad that the unity — it’s sad that we are being united by tragedy.”

Cameron Gorman is a features correspondent. Contact her at [email protected].