He sounded calm, my son did, when he left me the voice mail about the crazed gunman on campus.
“Dad, everything’s okay,” the voice mail started. (I was in a “very important meeting” when Evan called my cellphone, so I let it go to voice mail.) “But there’s a guy with a gun on campus — and we’re on lockdown. I’ll call you later.”
December, 2013. Evan was, what, a sophomore at the University of New Haven? Just 18 years old and cramming for finals when a deranged classmate arrived on campus with a long gun and a plan to kill.
Thankfully, a passerby saw William Dong crossing the street with his weapon and called the police. He’d parked his car in the commuter parking lot across the street from campus, following the rules.
No big deal, Evan said when it was all over. And it was all over quickly, thankfully.
Back to normal.
Looking back now, Evan probably sounded calm because “lockdown due to gunman” was normal for his generation. I didn’t delete Evan’s voice mail for a long time, and I’d remember it was there on my phone every time a mass shooting headlined the news.
I was reminded a lot about that voice mail in the years that followed.
And now here I sit, six years later, in the lobby of the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas (for a work conference) — scene of the worst mass shooting in the US, when a guest shot out his hotel room window in 2017 and rained 1,000 bullets down on concert-goers a block away, killing 58. It’s only been a few days since the El Paso Wal-Mart massacre and the Dayton, Ohio shooting that left a combined 30 dead.
Yes, here I sit, in the Mandalay Bay lobby — with its ghosts and its gunshot echoes — and I see this brochure featured prominently at the concierge desk.
The back of the pamphlet is even worse.
I know Las Vegas is soulless and vampiric, but if this brochure is “business at usual” at the Mandalay Bay, then I’m pretty much convinced that nothing’s ever going to change and gun control will never happen here in the U.S.
And so I glance periodically at my cell phone, worried that my next incoming call might be from Evan again, or from Julia or Ethan, living their young adult lives somewhere — suddenly on lockdown, hiding from an angry man with a long gun.