I woke up to the buzzing of my phone.
The Daily Horrors Machine, as I’ve renamed it, delivered the newest national nightmare: More than 50 people were murdered Sunday night and the list of injured grew from initial reports of about 200 to more than 500 the next day.
The shooter, Stephen Paddock, was dead — maybe killed by police, maybe by his own hand. Investigators found “in excess of 10 rifles” in his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, from which he’d rained down bullets into a crowd of some 22,000 people gathered below at the Route 91 Harvest music festival.
After the initial shock at the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, I found something amazing, unexpected, and altogether horrible — I suddenly and unaccountably had the power to peer into the future.
There it was. As I lay there in the dark, staring at the ceiling, I could see all of future history scrolled out before my eyes. I knew without a doubt what would happen in the hours and days and weeks and months and years to come.
First came the lamentations, the solemn vows that we’d never let something like this shooting ever happen again. There was a Facebook profile flag in support of the victims. There would be thoughts and prayers and moments of silence. There were vigils at area churches in memory of the victims. There were candles glowing in the dark. There was a memorial fund for the families of those who lost sons and daughters.
Before the country could even mourn came the accusations. There were fingers pointed: The killer was a liberal. No, he was a conservative. He was a terrorist. We need more gun control. We need less. Las Vegas needs more police. This was God’s judgement on Sin City. He was a recent Muslim convert. No, he was a Christian and a white nationalist. He was angry at Trump; no, he was angry at Obama.
There was anger from the right and anger from the left. Lost somewhere in the middle, overshadowed by politics, was the human outrage.
On the first anniversary of the shooting, on Oct. 1, 2018, nothing had changed. We were all still angry. But there had been another 270 mass shootings across America, just like there were in 2017. We were still frothing at the mouth at each other, but we hadn’t come together to affect any meaningful change.
And so the cycle repeated, down and down and down and down in a spiral. People forgot the name Stephen Paddock under a landslide of other killers’ names. There were other gunshots on other days in other cities. There were new records set for the worst mass murder in U.S. history. They were blamed on everyone else but ourselves, and we were always convinced Someone Should Do Something About It.
But no one ever did, because apparently the only sting more painful than the deaths of 58 innocent party-goers is the stress of doing a damned thing.
As the vision faded and my mind returned the present, I went into a shallow, dreamless sleep.
The only comfort was my three-year-old boy, who had crawled out of his bed to snuggle up with me, unaware of the terrors that await outside our house.
I don’t want him to learn. All I ask is that he stay ignorant a little longer.