The horrific tragedy in Las Vegas over the weekend at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival has proven, once again, that in even in what feels like the safest place among some of the most good-natured people in the world, terror can strike.
The lives of 58 innocent music lovers at the open air destination country fest were extinguished by a shooter who showed no previous predilection toward violence. Smashing out the windows in his adjoining hotel rooms on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, the man fired upon a completely exposed and unknowing audience of more than 22,000 as Jason Aldean closed out the evening with his headlining performance.
Over 500 individuals suffered non-fatal injuries in what was the worst mass shooting to date in U.S. history. Even having to use the words “to date” causes the stomach to churn. It was just over a year ago when a gunman took the lives of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Non-fatal injuries there topped out at 58.
But, what about the psychological damage incidents like this does to people? Concerts are supposed to be somewhere to let out an expression of joy among other like-minded souls. It used to be that the worst that might transpire would be an errant boot to the head when someone would stage-dive during a particularly aggressive band’s set.
Of course, there have been calamities. Take for instance the stampede prior to a show by The Who in 1979 at Cincinnati, Ohio’s Riverfront Coliseum where 11 people were killed. Similarly, three fans lost their lives during a general admission crush against the stage at an AC/DC concert in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1991. Then there were the terrible events of 2003 at the Station nightclub in Warwick, R.I. where an errant pyrotechnics display at a Great White show quickly engulfed the building in flames and caused 100 to lose their lives.
Those were all accidents. Sure, blame was bandied about, because someone needs to take responsibility, but no one deliberately set out to maliciously cause the death of concertgoers. Even the stabbing death at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival during a set by the Rolling Stones in 1969 was a boneheaded and snap decision by members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club who took the offense of having their bikes kicked as a grievous one.
Las Vegas is different. The Manchester Arena suicide bombing in England at an Ariana Grande concert in May of this year where 22 people died — including 10 under the age of 20 — is different. The November 2015 terror attack at an Eagles of Death Metal gig in Paris at the Bataclan theatre where extremists took the lives of 89 people — that was different. These are acts by people committed to instill fear in what are typically the most basic of human times of enjoyment.
There can be any number of measures put into place in and even directly outside of venues, but what happened Sunday night is impossible to prevent. Earlier this week, Variety magazine spoke to Chris Robinette of the security consulting firm Prevent Advisors, who said that something along these lines is a danger even to physical structures, pointing to Boston’s Fenway Park, New York’s Yankee Stadium and Denver’s Coors Field as just a few spots in the middle of a metropolitan city with balconies and buildings overlooking them, making it easy for someone out to cause havoc in a comparable manner.
“There is now a risk and it’s demonstrated and real and now has to be accounted for,” Robinette said. “It’s really difficult to counter and respond to situations like this, given the geography and geometry of what occurred.”
As best as the intentions are though, there is no way to stop a situation like what went down in Las Vegas — and that’s a cold, hard fact. Despite this, there will be people in the news saying it can’t change the way we go about our lives. Miami Beach, Fla. Police Chief John Oates is one of them. He held the same position in Aurora, Colo. five years ago when a gunman opened fire in a movie theater, resulting in 12 lives lost and 70 injuries.
“You have to be determined to live your life,” he told a CBS affiliate. “You can’t give in to this kind of threat.”
Bold sentiments indeed, yet difficult ones to convince someone who watched helplessly as bodies dropped without warning all around them over the weekend as the bloodbath transpired. The sheer panic something like that induces is unfathomable, and as these types of attacks become more frequent and outlandish, it’s not mad to envision them having an immediate — if not lasting — effect on large gatherings no matter what the entertainment.
There is no easy solution at the end of the day — it simply doesn’t exist. And because of that, it will be some time before people’s confidence and assurance that harm won’t come their way during perceived moments of pleasure rises again.
To contact music columnist Michael Christopher, send an email to email@example.com. Also, check out his blog at www.thechroniclesofmc.com