“Come With Us”: The Best of Humanity in the Worst of Times
News reports are calling it the worst mass shooting in United States history. I hesitate to say it’s “the worst” because how can you compare death to death, horror to terror? Were the victims at Pulse “less bad” simply because there were a handful fewer casualties? Were Columbine’s 13 innocent high schoolers somehow more important than the 9 lives cut short in the Charleston church shooting?
Perhaps the worst part of this horror is that we now have so many mass shootings to compare with each other that we can start reasonably using terms like “worst” and “not as bad” when it comes to mass death.
But all of that aside, there is no question that the shooting in Las Vegas last night was the most deadly.
And after my gut stopped quaking and the tears slowed down, I began shifting away from the news stations to look at one of the miracles of the modern era: Live video. Filmed by brave–or perhaps simply paralyzed with fear–civilians who were in the midst of the most horrifying experience of their life.
And while I hear the gunshots and the screams, I also hear something else:
People helping each other.
- I’m here alone. I’m not with my family, the girl holding the camera says to the stranger beside her.
Her camera rolls, showing the uncut, unbiased scene. It shows the reality: One cowardly asshole, known only by the sound of his semi-automatic weapon, locked in his ivory tower, feeling powerful over the cowering masses.
Dozens of frightened people in the camera woman’s immediate vicinity, facing terror and death — working together.
I see several people shielding their loved ones.
I see strangers showing concern for the people around them, even in the face of death.
I see friends forming chains of held hands, dragging each other to safety. Not leaving anyone behind.
I see one, wild young man, standing up in a crouching crowd. His arms are wide, as he yells defiantly, showing no fear. He’s telling the gunman in his ivory tower–his presence, hopefully, distracting the gunman so others can escape: Your terrorism won’t work on me. You won’t make us lose our humanity.
And I hear the frightened, ashamed voice of the girl behind the camera, saying, “I’m not here with my family. I’m here alone. I don’t know what to do.”
And the stranger beside her says, “Come with us. I’m with my son. Come with us.”
“Really?” she asks. You can hear the disbelief.
“Yes. Come with us. Stick together!”
Find the helpers.
I’ve never been in an active shooter situation, and I’m sad we live in a world where I now mentally prepare for a shooter whenever I enter a mall or a movie theater. A world where, as soon as I woke up this morning to find someone’s “Prayers for Vegas” Facebook post, I immediately knew we’d had a terrorist attack or mass shooting. I know I can’t understand the fear or loss for the people who have experienced these events.
I won’t tell you how you should feel or grieve. But in the wake of tragedy, I personally like to find the heroes and remember that, for every one cowardly terrorist shooting innocent, unarmed people from above, there are dozens of heroes and people proving that humanity is full of heroes and do-gooders. There are dozens of people who stand up, arms wide, shouting, “You may be up there with a gun, but you don’t have the power to take our humanity away.”
There were many heroes in Las Vegas last night. Far more heroes than the one, lonely villain.
There was a woman stopping to carry the wounded in her truck.
There was a man who stayed in the line of fire to hold his friend, who was too injured to move. His friend died in his arms.
“Ordinary people,” writes ABC7, “became paramedics.”
Many times after a tragedy like this, I feel helpless, as I’m sure many people do. I donate money. I post on Facebook about prayers. I write an article. What can I do? What could I have done, had I even been there?
And it may sound trite, but I always go do a random act of kindness after an event like this. I volunteer at an animal shelter, or help sort donations for kids from low-income homes, or donate toys to a children’s hospital. Or, at the very least, I pay for the car behind me in line at Starbucks and try to put a little bit more good out in the world. It is nothing compared to the bravery showed by the people caught beneath gunfire in Vegas, but I hope it fights back a little against the darkness in the world.
So for the helpers, the heroes, the do-gooders. Thank you. There are many of us, and one of him.