I was born in New York, but I have lived in Las Vegas since I was a year old. When people ask where I’m from, I obviously say Vegas, but have to add “but I was born in New York.” They would laugh and say “ok, so you’re from Vegas.”
What is it like to live in Las Vegas? People always ask. It’s not entirely what TV shows and movies make it out to be. Vegas is all I know, sure. My whole life has been spent here, and I have seen a lot, learned a lot, met people from all over, etc.
Here’s the thing, Vegas is small. Everyone knows everyone, or knows of, or has a friend of a friend that knows your second cousin. I mean, seriously. Sure, people drift apart, but we have shared memories together.
So we live our lives; keep connections with old friends, start connections with new friends.
Country music has been my jam for a while, and when I first heard about Route 91, I was so excited to go. It was my favorite music festival/concert whatever you want to call it. I went to Route 91 for two years, and the third time I wasn’t able to go. I had a wedding to go to that was in London.
I actually was contemplating, how do I get out of this so I can go to Route 91? Friends laughed, and told me, “are you really asking yourself that? Route 91 will always be there, go and explore and have fun in London.”
So I did.
London is 8 hours ahead of Las Vegas. I remember going to sleep, tossing and turning, and feeling major anxiety. I had no idea why, I just remember I felt scared for some reason. I woke up a little after 7am, which was a little after 10pm in Vegas. Phones were going off, and I turned on the news. I was watching Las Vegas - my home - under attack. I saw that Route 91 stage, people running, screaming, and I remember feeling like “this isn’t real, it’s a dream.. right?”
I wish it was. I immediately called my parents who were asleep.
Mom: “Hello?? Steph what’s going on? Are you okay?”
Me: “Mom, put the news on. Please tell me Ella is home!”
They turn the news on, in shock at what was happening. My sister was supposed to go to that concert, but didn’t. I was going to go, but couldn’t.
I told my family I loved them, and hung up the phone. I cried. I didn’t talk. I felt helpless, and I wanted to go home.
I looked up flights from London to Vegas and I remember feeling defeated like there was nothing I could do. We were getting on a flight from London to Rome, and I was not happy. I felt guilty. I wondered that whole day, why wasn’t it me?
That could have easily been me. I would have been there, running amongst other innocent people. I am blessed to be alive today, but in that moment it felt dark, and I couldn’t shake it.
I said a prayer, and I prayed to God thanking Him that my sister was not there. Because I know damn certain, I would be on that plane coming home ASAP.
All day, I was on Facebook and people were checking themselves in as “safe.” I still could not believe this had happened. Everyone knows everyone in Vegas, but everyone felt a bit closer after this tragic moment.
We finished the trip, and the first thing I did was visit the crosses of those 58 innocent lives that were taken. It wasn’t fair. It is not fair that those people were taken. It is not fair that people were injured. It is not fair that this town has to live with those scary memories of Route 91. My heart is and always will be with my home, Las Vegas.
I have seen a lot growing up here, a lot. I have never seen anything like this before, though. People travel to Las Vegas from all over the world for business trips, leisure trips, weddings, you name it. This was considered a “party city,” but I think now people can see it’s more than that. Las Vegas is a family, and we have all certainly come together Vegas Strong.
One day I decided to join pilates, and little did I know, my instructor was Deryk Engelland’s wife. She’s a sweetheart. I had the pleasure of meeting Deryk Engelland, too, and I feel honored to have a signed jersey from him.
This city went through something tragic, but at the same time, it was so touching to see how many of us came together as a family. Right after the tragedy, I saw something special from our hockey team. They helped out in any way they could, and acknowledged the brave men and women who saved lives that night. We know we are all being watched over from those 58 beautiful souls that were taken too soon from us. We have an amazing hockey team that has lifted our spirits, and has given us the hope we needed and something to look forward to. It’s a sport, but it has brought everyone together. What this team has done for our city, is more than I can even put into words. This hockey team - Vegas Golden Knights - are doing this for us.
Our team started out being doubted, but we had made it. We were in the Stanley Cup in our first season. That is an accomplishment already, and although we did not lift that Stanley Cup, our Knights lifted our spirits and brought us together. We had gone through a horrible tragedy, but we have come full circle and have proven to the world that we won’t back down. I never really believed in fairy tales, but the players of our team are truly knights in shining armor.
I stand here so damn proud to say I am from Las Vegas, and I am part of a community that truly is Vegas Strong.