It’s an odd feeling having to call home from Afghanistan to make sure everyone is ok. It’s been a month and a half since the deadliest shooting in U.S. history occurred in my city while I was safe-and-sound in Kabul. There are great debates about what does and does not meet the definition of irony. I don’t know if this meets the criteria, but it certainly met the definition for surreal. While I sat in a war-zone with more weapons, ammo, and equipment than we could possibly make use of given the current situation, one of my friends, a police officer, was shown in one of the photos repeatedly shown on the news outlets running toward the Mandalay Bay and the threat within. My good friend and 13Thirty Books associate, Mat Kaufman, works as a medic for one of the local EMS agencies. He worked a 30 hour shift that night, the next day, and on to help those affected by the event. I helplessly watched the news broadcasts on AFN as the number killed rose with every update.
I’ve written beside Crystal Perkins in several anthologies. She wasn’t satisfied watching. She reached out to local Las Vegas authors to do something in the wake of the this tragedy. Nineteen authors tell the story of our great city. They tell about the amazing people and places behind the catchy slogans, bright skyline, and chattering slot machines. They tell the world about the place we call home. Mat contributed the foreword for the book and all proceeds go to The Code Green Campaign, which advocates for mental health education and outreach for first responders. If you want to hear the stories that make Las Vegas great, please check out Vegas Strong.
I’ve been back home in Vegas for just under a week now. To me everything is normal. Besides a few “Vegas Strong” billboards, signs, and t-shirts, not much seems different to me. We even did a small welcome home gathering at Ri Ra, the Irish pub inside Mandalay Bay. The night went on just like every other night I had been to the pub before. I take my dog for walks around the neighborhood, shop for groceries, and go about my life much the same as I was able to before leaving for Afghanistan. I’m able to do these things because Vegas truly is strong.