On the day before the worst shooting in modern American history, the mother and sister of Freddie Shanel ’21 had gone to the Las Vegas Strip to attend a show for her sister’s birthday.
The following night, Stephen Paddock rained bullets on a crowd attending a concert on the Strip from the 32nd floor of a high-rise hotel, killing 59 people and injuring over 500. Shanel, a Las Vegas native, woke up to escalating alerts on her phone announcing the news.
“I think there’s kind of a second when you catch your breath,” she said. Her mother and sister soon sent a note to her family members notifying them that they were safe, giving Shanel a quick moment of relief.
But the moment soon passed, Shanel said. “Over time, it starts to settle in, how horrible it was, what happened.”
For students from Las Vegas, Sunday’s shooting sparked feelings of panic, helplessness, and eventually deep sadness.
“There’s a difference when you see these stories on the news and then it’s your home, twenty minutes away from where you live. I can’t tell you how many times my sister and my friends have been to that venue for concerts,” Logan T. Houck ’19 said.
Houck said his sister’s friend was injured at the concert venue, and one of his brother’s friends lost a parent in the shooting.
“The main feeling I’ve felt is just complete helplessness being so far away,” Houck said. “It’s just incredible how intimate the relationships are. It seems like every single person in Vegas you know is somehow affected.”
In the wake of the massacre, a Las Vegas Victims’ Fund to aid those affected has so far raised over $9 million. On campus, too, Nevadan students have started initiatives to provide financial support back home.
Jack C. Heavey ’18, a Nevadan who has worked at the Eliot Grille for the past three years, proposed for Grille to donate all the proceeds it made Monday night to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund.
“It was the platform that I could do something with, and I was already planning to work that night, and so in that way it worked out,” he said.
In all, the Eliot Grille donated $333 to victim relief, Heavey said.
“In terms of weeknight revenue, that was the highest that I’ve ever seen the Grille had. [It was] one of the largest nights ever,” Heavey said.
Houck also felt spurred to act, reaching out to the Boston Blood Bank and the American Red Cross to plan a blood drive this weekend.
Beyond sending help to Las Vegas, students said it was also important to support each other on campus.
“Everyone’s been extremely supportive and has been checking in with me,” Heavey said. “It’s moments like these when we really do come together to help out that really do make [Harvard] seem like a home away from home.”
Shanel agreed. “You can’t bring 59 people back, but the least thing you can do is support those who are going through it and support those who need help,” she said.
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