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Dallas 3 a.m.

On Oct 1, I woke in Dallas at 3 a.m. before my flight back to Las Vegas. Picking the morning flight over the red eye became a battle of trying to sleep in a too soft bed with a thin pillow. I might have slept better on the overnight. I should have just stayed awake and pretended I was 20 again.

I hit stop on the phone alarm and saw a long line of alerts. In the dark, the light of the phone let me know, “20 dead in Las Vegas. More than 200 wounded.”

It was 1 a.m. in Vegas; it had just happened.

For years, I feared hearing a mass shooting in my city. Too many tourists; too many opportunities. It seemed very real.

I spent the weekend with Katie in north Texas. A fan of country, she would have been at the concert. Thankfully, she was in bed in Denton.

Matthew tried to get tickets to the Route 91 Concert on Saturday. He texted to say he had couldn’t get tickets. That left my son Albert. My phone showed he walked into the house at 10:06 p.m.; two minutes before the mass murder.

I sat in the dark and thought how lucky we were. None of our kids were there. Relief and then horror as an alert put the death toll over 50.

We landed in Las Vegas after 7 a.m. Curtains flowed out of two windows at the Mandalay Bay. The Strip was closed so we took Maryland Parkway to work. It felt like the wind had taken the heart out of Las Vegas.

A Justice tried to give blood but the line was 3 hours deep and she had to come back to hear oral arguments. She never was able to give blood.

Albert woke up confused. He read my text, “Are you okay?” He looked out the window. A bus went by so he figured everything was okay. Then he Googled Las Vegas and saw the news. “Oh, that’s why they texted.”

He went out and bought six cases of water to take to the first responders. It seemed like all he could do. He talked to a few of them. Everyone was feeling grief. Not too many people wanted to talk about what had happened.

He kept pausing the news to ask us questions. “Why did he do it?” “I can’t believe he did it.” “Do you think he cared?”

I didn’t know what to say. I had the same questions.

I donated some money to the Vegas Shooting Fund. By the end of the week, it totaled more than $10 million.

Most of the victims were from California. Of my friends, at least 12 knew somebody shot or killed. A large number of people were from my hometown of Bishop. One little town of 4,000 people and so many people were at the concert.

Las Vegas gets a bad reputation as a place no one calls home. Nearly 50 million people visit every year.

But on the first day, United Blood Services collected more than 600 pints of blood; they are lucky to collect 100 pints a day. As people stood in line, businesses brought sandwiches, water, pizza, cake, umbrellas, and chairs. Everyone wanted to help. Our community showed through.

By the end of the week, you could find #VegasStrong on most of social media accounts and billboards around the city.

The mass murder stung us. But it didn’t stop us from being people who care.

I’m still numb to the whole event. I would give anything to wake up in Dallas at 3 a.m. to see nothing on my phone.



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The Headless Maze Buster


I stand in my spot three quarters into the mystery maze. I hide in the dark, jump out, and scare the bejesus out of the little kids. My partner, Larry, hides across from me. He stands under three feet tall and dresses like a clown. He tells everyone he is height-challenged. I call him a dwarf. The correct term, I think, is person of short stature. I like dwarf. Larry doesn’t mind. He knows he is short.

Last year, Larry came out of his corner and chased a real hot chick. She screamed. Oh, did she scream. His little legs following her so fast. We laughed a long time after that. Those were the best six weeks ever.

Tonight we worked fast. A ton of people walked through the maze. We struggled to keep up. The maze is the least scary of all; more of a haunted house for babies. Fake blood on the walls, hanging string, and guys jumping out of the corners. In the next room, Charlie did his best to look trapped in a ghoul’s kitchen. He would flay about on the table and move his fake intestines back and forth as the kids walked by. Those intestines freaked me out in the dark. In the light you could tell they are just plastic ropes.

Larry chased down a lot of kids his own height. He dislikes that. He likes it best when the mothers jump out of his way. Like I said, he gets a kick out of chasing the girls with blonde hair.

The fast pace made our job hard. We barely got back into place before another group wandered in. Plus, the maze owner added a new guy to our room. It made it real awkward to move around. Up towered this big nasty looking dude wearing a canvas robe, a black hole with just two red eyes, and a large scythe. He might as well been a wall in the way. We kept tripping over each other. Larry ran into the guy and fell down more than once. The guy kept whipping the large scythe around the top of Larry’s head. And that evil laugh. He seemed to get a kick out of that laugh.

So, here we were, trying to do our best to jump out and scare the kids and all the while trying to keep from running into each other. Larry ran out, the scythe came down, missing Larry by millimeters, and then I jumped out. Somehow we managed to scare quite a few kids. But it was hard work. All this worked like clockwork until the scythe came down, missed Larry, and hit a kid in the face. I heard a big thump and this small ball rolled to me; a bloody head with surprised eyes and a screaming mouth. The kids around me started screaming and the lights came on.

The guy with the scythe ran out the maze and Larry hauled the kid’s body out of the way. I threw up on his head and you guys showed up. Now that I think about it, I don’t think it was such a good idea to have the angel of death here. He kind of took the fun out of it.

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