On October 1, 2017, the world witnessed one of the deadliest mass shooting in the US history — the massacre at Las Vegas. A gunman, now identified as Stephen Paddock, relentlessly opened fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel for several minutes and killed around 59 people and wounded more than 500 at a country music festival in Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Chaos and confusion followed as people tried to make sense of the atrocity. While the world is still reeling with the after-effects of the massacre, a Las Vegas police officer, J Van Dyke, tried to coherently put what exactly had happened that day in his Facebook post.
Voicing his thoughts in an emotional post, he wrote that “when gun shots were raining, stress and anxiety were the most common emotions” as there was a widespread “chaos of not knowing where the shots were coming from, or who was shooting them”. He then went on to write about the resilience exhibited by the first responders. “The bravery and courage of first responders that only we get to witness and fully understand. The fact that one of my coworkers was on vacation tonight, heard what was happening, and suited up at home and came with us to fight the wolf,” he wrote. At the end of his powerful post Dyke urged everybody to forget the differences and stand united. “Let’s come together as a UNITED nation, and honor the victims and their families. Let’s come together as a UNITED nation and honor the first responders who worked incredibly long and stressful shifts, without food, water, or even bathroom breaks,” he concluded. His post had over 94,000 shares, at the time of writing.
“I am home after an 18.5 hour shift. And yes, I am safe. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the calls, texts, Facebook messages… even from people I almost never talk to, or haven’t talked to in years. It’s always a huge comfort to know people care. If I haven’t responded, please know that I am fielding a lot of these calls from family and friends, and doing the best I can. I’m super exhausted so bear with me… a little about the incident…
The first 7 hours went pretty much like every other shift goes. Then while I’m sitting there eating my much-anticipated Chipotle on my lunch break, radio broadcast… active shooter at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. For the next 11 hours, we all experienced a number of things. Stress and anxiety were among the most common emotions. Listening to the radio while we were headed towards the Mandalay Bay, listening to the stress in my partners’ voices, listening to them shouting about how many victims they saw, the fact that shots were still being fired. The chaos of not knowing where the shots were coming from, or who was shooting them. The fact that it was a fully automatic weapon, machine-gun style…. Whoever this was, he outguns us. Hearing gun shots on the radio while my partners were asking for help, knowing you are still miles away, is nothing that any cop wants to ever experience. On arrival we moved in on foot, still not knowing where the shots were coming from. Learning vague details from numerous panicked 911 callers… some of them saying there were multiple shooters in the Tropicana Hotel, New York New York Hotel, Mirage Hotel, Paris Hotel… the ongoing radio traffic about more victims being found, more shots being fired… Even that didn’t compete with the faces of people running away. The citizens and tourists we all swore to protect, running for their lives, hoping that we could give them a miracle. And of course the frustration we get when people question you… “Why do I have to leave?” “But my hotel is that way.” “Why are you yelling at me to put my hands up? That’s not very nice.” “Why are you pointing rifles at me? That’s scary.” The herding dogs get frustrated with the sheep who don’t want to listen. That’s why the Sheepdog has to bite the sheep, growl at the sheep, essentially scare the sheep into submission, for their own good. Because some just don’t know how to save themselves. Some don’t know or understand the magnitude of what is unfolding. Now the most deadly active shooter incident in modern American history, and I try to save your life and rush you to safety, and the Sheepdogs, herding the sheep to safety, are criticized for their “aggression.” But all those negatives are forgotten when you find a crying, terrified family sheltered in place inside a bathroom stall. When you get to guide a horrified mother and her crying child to safety.
But even that… even that does not compare to the most powerful, and to me one of the most important aspects of this whole thing. The bravery and courage of first responders that only we get to witness and fully understand. The fact that one of my coworkers was on vacation tonight, heard what was happening, and suited up at home and came with us to fight the wolf. In my 12-man unit, only 9 of us were “on duty” – the other 3 came from home when they heard what was unfolding. At the end of the day, we fight side by side, and we go in together. Unfortunately, we don’t always all make it out, and today, an LVMPD police officer who was off duty attending the concert, was among those who tragically did not make it out of the festival alive. Today I will honor that Officer, along with the more than 50 people who died. Today I will think of their families and friends, who now have to learn how to go on without their loved one. And today I will ask you, for one day, to put your politics aside. Forget about Donald Trump. Forget about the NFL. Forget about whether you should stand or kneel. Forget about our differences in opinion when it comes to policing in America, and how cops treat their communities. Let’s come together as a UNITED nation, and honor the victims and their families. Let’s come together as a UNITED nation and honor the first responders who worked incredibly long and stressful shifts, without food, water, or even bathroom breaks. If you wonder how cops view the communities they police, consider the fact that so many of them came in today, off duty, to help. Not because it’s a job, but because it’s their calling. It’s who they are. The sheep don’t always want the sheepdog around, because he reminds them there is evil in the world. But, still, the sheepdog is willing to fight in defense of the sheep, and at a moment’s notice, he is willing to lay down his own life for the sheep he loves. It is simply who he is.”