Individually these words conjure up a variety of different images including things such as a place to have a good time and the determination to succeed or ability to lift heavy loads.
But together, as Vegas Strong, they are powerful. They carry a message to the world. They convey unity, much in the way the community has rallied to support the victims and heroes in wake of the mass shooting that left 59 people dead and nearly 500 people wounded Oct. 1 at the Route 91 Harvest music festival.
The outpouring of love and support for those affected by the shooting, including the thousands who were there but were not physically hurt, has been overwhelming. People from far and wide have been doing what they can to show how much they care, from waiting in lines for hours to donate blood to praying at vigils to bringing flowers or lighting candles at a memorial at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign.
In Boulder City, two women have dedicated hours to creating vinyl decals so that people can publicly show their support through the “Vegas Strong” message.
Heather Lewis, whose friend Brennan Stewart, was killed, has been asking a $5 donation for each decal, which in turn is being donated to a fund for victims. So far, she has donated nearly $2,000.
Hailing from a family of country music fans, she knew many people at the concert, including her brother and sister-in-law, who came home physically unscathed but emotionally scarred.
“I don’t have the money I want to donate but I had to do something,” she said.
Not being able to donate blood either, she turned to what she knew best: decals. She had just received a vinyl cutter a month before as an early birthday present from her husband.
She began offering the stickers on Facebook and response “kinda blew up.”
The same thing happened to Jeny Breeden, who has made thousands of decals and has been giving them away.
“After it happened, I was looking for ways to help. I considered donating blood but they were already at capacity. I cut vinyl all the time … I didn’t intend to cut 6,000 decals. I thought they would be nice and healing.”
Breeden, too, put word of her decals out on Facebook. She set 250 out in front of her home on the Tuesday after the shooting and they were gone by 10 a.m. the next morning.
Now, she has recruited several friends to help her cut the individual strips from the sheets of decals.
Breeden said she was inspired to show support for the victims and heroes of the shooting because she realized how quickly things can change. Having gone to a concert two nights before, she imagined how it must have felt to go from “complete happiness to complete terror” in an instant.
Even though she wasn’t asking for money for the decals, donations have come in. She has raised $900, which she said she plans to bring to Friday’s charity event at the Boulder City Library.
Through her decals, she said she wanted to help pay it forward, make someone smile.
Millions of dollars have been raised through a fund created by Las Vegas County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak. As of Wednesday morning, more than $10.5 million dollars has been donated, with contributions by more than 84,500 people..
There have been many more instances of giving for those involved in the story, even to those behind the scenes.
For example, staff at Boulder City Hospital was sent care packages by students in the health care services program at a high school in Oregon after learning through an acquaintance that the hospital dedicated half a wing to family and friends who were showing up to find patients or wait for surgery or recovery of loved ones.
“The staff was having to work overtime to ensure that patients were taken care of so their efforts deserved to be recognized,” said Stephanie Cox, the health educator of the program.
And my co-workers at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, who have been working practically around the clock to tell the story of what happened, have been supported by journalists from across the nation, including those who have been affected by tragedies of their own, who sent doughnuts and pizza to the newsroom.
But more than just raising funds or much-appreciated supplies, the tragedy has brought the nation together. The response to the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history is overwhelming.
This definitely is not the way we wanted our community to be remembered.
But we are forever changed. We are Vegas Strong.
Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.