It is Tuesday October 3. I spent part of the day in the parking lot opposite the Mandalay Bay hotel helping my friends in the Fraternal Order of Police feed and hydrate the first responders working at the murder scene. Police officers are working twelve hour shifts, yet they are friendly and professional. They never pass up a chance to thank us for coming to help them. It was also the day I found out the lady I was trying to locate the night before, is one of the fatalities.
The community of Las Vegas, known as Sin City, may have lost whatever innocence it had, but it has not lost its heart. Hotel marquees display messages of sorrow for the victims and praise for the first responders. People are pulling up with food, beverages and ice saying “I just want to help”. The generosity has been so great some of the collection places have had to turn people and their gifts away and redirect them to other locations because they are over supplied. All the people are coming near the tragedy scene trying to give something back to the first responders. Hotels are sending food and sandwiches. Ice, snack packs, water, Gatorade, soft drinks, pizza, pastries and just about anything you can think of is offered freely by the people wanting to help and thank someone for what the first responders did.
It was eerie looking up at the two broken out golden windows and realizing how much death and pain rained down from them. It makes me feel once again like I did back on 9/11. Tomorrow I will be back with my friends from the local Fraternal Order of Police lodges, trying to help take care of the first responders and wondering where do these brave people come from?
It is Wednesday, October 4 President Trump has arrived in Las Vegas with the first lady. They have travelled to two important locations; the trauma center at UMC (University Medical Center) to meet with survivors of this horrific event and the headquarters of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. I have spent the morning with fellow Fraternal Order of Police friends making coffee and making sure first responders have enough nourishment and fluid to help them make it through their current assignment.
When we arrived at seven o’clock this morning waiting to greet us was the lid of a cardboard box from a restaurant. On it were messages of thanks for the police officers, thanking them for what they have done while providing them with a little rest and nourishment.
Part of the afternoon was spent helping the first responders do their overwhelming jobs. Our members went shopping on short notice and arrived back at our trailer with hamburgers, apples, tangerines, bananas, snack packs, beverages, and energy drinks. We fed between 140 and 200 specialists who were then responsible to reenter and investigate this overwhelming crime scene. You have never met so many people who were thankful for a simple hamburger, some fresh fruit and above all else, energy drinks. All they asked was would we promise to be back on site the following day. How could we say no to such a thankful group of people?
The people who are with the FBI are measuring as well as posting on maps where each piece of evidence from Sunday night is located. The agents of the Nevada State Attorney General’s office must reenter the killing zone and recover all the personal effects left behind. While there, they will tag, document, identify, and attempt to contact either the owner whose property they now possess, or make a notification to the next of kin that the loved one’s property has been found and available to be claimed.
Time is winding down like it does with any crisis in life. Tomorrow we will arrive a little later in the day and once again provide sustenance to the evidence gatherers as well as any first responder, but with shortened hours on site. The people, who attended the concert and escaped to safety, are returning home. We will stay on site but not as long as we did when we first responded. For those that lost loved ones, many of the casino/hotels are offering free rooms. Some of the airlines, are offering to fly the human remains home for free.
I have been wiping tears and sometimes struggling to finish sentences without crying in front of someone. A simple thank you from a first responder can bring tears to your eyes as he or she takes a couple bottles of water or energy drinks back out on the road to continue their twelve hour assignments. This can reduce you to tears. They have done so much and we have done so little, trying to make their day just a little easier, a little better and maybe a little more hopeful.
Tomorrow I will return with my friends, maybe our stay will be shorter, maybe it will be longer. We serve our first responders and their needs. They make the hours worthwhile because they never leave us without saying thank you.
Thursday was another day helping take care of the first responders. The evidence technicians continue their tiring task of gathering evidence and retrieving victims’ lost property. It seems every day the authorities give back to the residents some of the roped off areas and open up some of the streets that have been closed.
Two ladies arrived at our command post site and delivered care packages containing sandwiches, snacks, fruit and bottles of water. These were put together by members of their church. They wanted to do something to help and they have, yet they thank us for allowing them to help.
Today I was told some happy news. A dog was found and reunited with his owner. The owner is one of the survivors of the mayhem. The dog is a therapy dog. They became separated during the slaughter.
Sergeant Bernie Moss of the Corpus Christi police department once wrote a story, You’re Not A Cop Until You Taste Them. It’s about a time early in his career and being told by an old timer you’re not a cop until you taste them, and then saying nothing more. One day Bernie handled a horrific event one night and while changing clothes in the locker room he was crying. The old timer came over and put his hand on Bernie’s shoulder and said, “Now you’ve tasted them.”
Tears have a special taste all their own and also have a cathartic effect. I have tasted my tears during this tragic time, but in my case they aren’t tears of sadness or hurt. They are tears of gratitude for the wonderful people who are trying to help. They are tears for the work the first responders continue doing no matter how terrible. They are tears of thanks for allowing me to help and be part of Las Vegas’ recovery. Eventually, this horrific event will be part of my past, not my present.
BIO OF KEITH BETTINGER
Keith Bettinger is a retired Suffolk County (N.Y.) Police Officer. He’s been writing for law enforcement publications for more than 25 years and has received 19 awards for his articles, stories, poems, and books. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Relations with a major in Clinical Counseling. During his career he received the department’s Bravery Medal, Silver Shield Award, Meritorious Police Service Award, Special Service Award, Professionalization Award, Department Recognition Award, five Headquarters commendations and six Precinct commendations. He also was a field training officer and an instructor on Post Shooting Trauma and Critical Incidents.
Keith has written three books, FIGHTING CRIME WITH “SOME “DAY AND LENNY, END OF WATCH AND MURDER IN McHENRY. He has also contributed stories to the following anthologies: I Pledge Allegiance, Cop Tales 2000, Charity, True Blue, To Protect and Serve, and Dad’s Bow Tie. He also shares with Jack Miller, the screenplay Master Cheat. Keith lives in Las Vegas with his wife Lynn.
It is my pleasure to host my good friend, Keith Bettinger. In addition to the things mentioned in his bio, he was also at the 9/11 Ground Zero. Being the author who reviewed the manuscript for my first book, “We Are Different Now – a grandparents journey through grief”, he had a big impact on my first becoming a published author. We hope you’ll leave a comment to let us know you stopped by to enjoy his article.