Tragedy hits home

How the Las Vegas shooting affected Victorians

On Oct. 1, 2017, a man barricaded in the Mandalay Bay Resort rained bullets down on the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. This, we know. We’ve heard the details, seen the broadcasts, and read the papers. However, this incident does not begin and end in Las Vegas. The survivors of the Route 91 shooting all took that tragedy home with them — some of them back here to Victoria.

It just so happens that Victoria Police Department’s Chief Constable, Del Manak, was vacationing in Las Vegas the night of the shooting. Manak arrived two days before the incident, and, on the night of Oct. 1, was inside Mandalay Bay — the hotel that housed the shooter. He was watching a Cirque De Soleil performance when the shooting began. An hour in, the show was halted, guests were asked to remain in their seats, and an announcement came on stating there was an incident.

Photo cutline: The recent shooting in Las Vegas left its mark in all corners of the world: including Victoria. Photo by Mariordo59 via Flickr

“Shortly after, eight Las Vegas police officers entered the theatre, fully armed,” recalls Manak. “The officer asked the audience to stay calm, get down on the floor, and told them that [we] were going to be there awhile.”

As Manak recounts this, he adds that it was strange for him to be on the receiving end of an incident such as this. “I wanted to be the officer protecting people. It was a bit unnerving because I was on the other side of it — powerless,” he says.

“A huge problem with that night was the misinformation. Many of us in the theatre thought there was multiple things happening. That there were coordinated attacks, that there was multiple shooters, that there were bombs,” he says. “There was a lot of anxiety and apprehension and you could sense that in the air.”

Manak’s biggest take-away from that night was the unbelievable efforts from the Las Vegas Metro Police Department.

“The next morning, police officers were greeting people at the entry of doorways, trying to keep everyone calm. I had the opportunity to thank the officers. They were phenomenal. Even in the face of danger, they knew what they were doing, and were confident and engaged.”

He also witnessed, first-hand, the kindness of strangers.

“Even at 3:30 in the morning, there were people in their personal cars, in their pajamas, with pillows, food and water. They were offering people rides. They were offering their homes.”

Manak says he will remember that spirit of the people of Las Vegas that night forever.

“Most importantly, my thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those impacted.”

But Manak wasn’t the only Victorian who experienced the tragedy on Oct. 1. Brie Jacobson, a student at Royal Roads University, endured the chaos and fear of the shooting first-hand while standing in the first few rows watching country singer Jason Aldean perform. When the shooting began, she didn’t realize what was happening. “We thought it was fireworks, and then a girl to our left passed out — or so we thought,” she recounts.

When a man in front of Jacobson fell to the ground, it wasn’t until a pool of blood formed around his head that the situation became clear to her. While running to escape through the crowd, she dropped her sunglasses. “In proper [consumerist fashion], I thought, ‘those are $300 sunglasses. I can’t lose those,” Jacobson recalls.

As she bent down to pick them up, the woman in front of her was shot in the back of the head.

Since coming home, Jacobson is putting out a call-to-action regarding airtight gun laws: “We need to do better.”

“His motive doesn’t matter to me,” she says. “The fact that he was able to do it is what matters to me. Any moment a bullet leaves a gun and murders an innocent human being because someone pulled the trigger — the government is an accomplice.”

Jacobson has heard the counter-argument before — ‘but what about all the good people out there who own, or collect, guns?’ To that, she says, “we all would have advocated for the shooter as a ‘good guy with a gun’ until Oct. 1. They’re all good guys until they’re bad guys, and by that time it’s too late.”

Moving forward, Jacobson is doing her best to gain back a life that feels normal.

“A few days ago, we were in the freezer section of Costco and someone shut the freezer door. It made a big pop sound. That pop reminded me of the gunshots,” she says. “Next thing I know, I’m crying and screaming on the floor of Costco.”

Through counseling provided by Royal Roads, massage therapy, acupuncture, and a variety of other resources, Jacobson is slowing trying to piece together the part of her that was broken that night.

“My mantra has sort of been: You’re okay. You’re safe. You’re alive,” she says.

But despite her struggles, she remains adamant that she is not a victim.

“I am a survivor. We are all survivors.”

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