All that blood.
As time passes, that’s what I hope I never forget about the aftermath of the massacre in Las Vegas at the Route 91 Harvest Festival this weekend.
I want to remember the speed with which arms of all colors were extended by people of all ages and circumstances to pump gallons and gallons of lifesaving blood so that strangers who needed it desperately could be saved after they were deliberately wounded by a gunman with a cache of guns and malignant intent.
The killer’s name I have already chosen to forget. Let him pass to oblivion, any thirst for infamy unquenched.
Instead, I want to ponder what’s worth remembering, like the willing donors lined up at blood centers in communities near and far following pleas from the hospitals in Nevada for blood to meet the needs of the hundreds who were wounded by either the gunfire itself or the mad rush to escape it.
We Americans can leave our civility in the dirt when the topic is politics. We can scrap with fervor and unfriend each other over disparate opinions, arguing our viewpoints like vultures picking at carrion. But when somebody bleeds, we feel it and rush to refill what’s been needlessly spilled. We choose to bleed ourselves for those who were harmed and to weep as well for those who were wounded.
It’s our loveliest trait. Though we may act like bratty siblings with each other, when someone attacks us, we become family again — a united front determined to protect and defend each other.
Because I choose to remember that, I will never forget the images of people kneeling in chaos to comfort the wounded, some tenderly scooping up friends and strangers who’d been felled. The photographs tell the story: People who were there used what they could find, wheeling those who were injured away on hotel luggage racks, rolling office chairs, in one case a wheelbarrow. They carried a woman out on a ladder because they were people with no access to gurneys, but they could find a ladder.
Lacking enough ambulances and emergency crews to quickly reach all who required care, ordinary people with no particular qualification but the willingness to be there for someone else drove folks who were wounded to area hospitals. Scores of media reports capture their odd and unexpected journeys, showing how one need not know a person to try to stanch the flow of blood, to put him or her in the back of your pickup truck or car and speed toward help.
It is highly likely that among all those lives lost, lives were also saved simply because people took responsibility for each other’s well-being — that amid whatever hate drove the killer’s rampage, the love of friends and strangers alike meant some will make it home again. And as concertgoers scrambled for safety, others opened doors and pulled them off the street and offered haven.
The other picture I’ll cling to is that of first responders, both police and emergency crews, charging into danger because they were needed. Their jobs are to serve, and they did those jobs with the greatest courage and selflessness.
Right after such a horrifying event, it’s easy to forget that light is more powerful than darkness, until you see it in terms of blood offered, rather than blood spilled.
Dictionaries define “serving” as helping, being of use, benefitting. In a country where leadership and role models sometimes seem lacking, it’s worth noting we do not lack people who are willing to put others first — to serve, not only in times of chaos, but also in times of much simpler need. People who are willing to build amidst all that would tear down.