Although the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history occurred in Las Vegas, NV Oct.1, the shooting hit close to home for many of the Oklahoma Christian University community.
During the Route 91 Harvest Festival, a man shot from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds, according to CNN.
Jody Jones, associate professor of business at Oklahoma Christian University, was in Las Vegas with his wife and Phil Lewis, professor of business, to present a paper at the Academy of Business conference. They arrived Sunday afternoon and stayed until Wednesday afternoon.
According to Jones, they were in their hotel, the Wyndham Desert Blue, which is about a mile and half northwest of Mandalay Bay, when the shooting occurred. He said they looked for show tickets for that evening, but could not find any and returned to the hotel.
“Monday morning, our phones started blowing up, people checking to see if we were okay,” Jones said. “We turned on the news, and it was everywhere. It was pretty surreal. I told my wife literally before we went to bed, because we had a view of the Mandalay Bay and the Rio, that we had a great view. And you get up the next morning and what the night before had been a great view, was just terrible.”
Jones said the hotel did a welfare check Monday morning to make sure all the guests were unharmed. Vegas’s atmosphere was completely changed that day, Jones said.
“Monday, there was nothing going on,” Jones said. “Everything was quiet. No one was out. The conference I was at, half the people didn’t show up. And Tuesday, a day later, it was like nothing ever happened. Which I guess it’s good in a way, that people move on, but it’s kind of scary to me that it’s become so normal that two days later it’s like nothing ever happened.”
According to Jones, this shooting reveals the troublesome state of the world.
“I think it tells a lot about where we are as a country, and where we are as a world,” Jones said. “This used to be an American thing, but we’re seeing stuff happen in other places too, so this isn’t uniquely an American problem anymore.”
According to The New York Times, the shooting reignited gun control debates in the U.S. Jones said, although people say guns are not the problem, the fact that it is harder to buy Sudafed than a gun is a problem.
“I own more guns probably than anyone you know,” Jones said. “And I would give them all away if I thought it would stop something like this from ever happening again.”
Senior Sawyer Pehkonen’s brother, Ryan, was in Las Vegas for his job as a sound mixer for Dylan Schneider, a popular country artist. According to Sawyer, Schneider’s performance ended around 5 p.m. the day of the shooting. Schneider and his crew, including Ryan, were in the crowd watching the rest of the show when the shooting occurred.
“They are physically okay,” Sawyer said. “The initial fire was directed exactly where [Ryan] was standing. Amazingly, him or his crew were not hit but dozens of people within a 20 to 30-foot radius of him were either critically or fatality wounded. He is dealing with some PTSD at this time.”
Pehkanon said he first heard the news Monday morning when he woke up at 6 a.m. for track practice and saw he had a couple missed calls from his mother. He said his family knew his brother was physically unharmed at that point.
“He was lucky just like all of us to see another day,” Pehkanon said. “Mine and my brother’s stance on gun control is unchanged after the event. Evil people will always find a way to hurt others. If we outlaw guns, evil people will obtain them in illegal ways while good people like myself will be left defenseless and unarmed. You can’t take away guns from bad people. They will always find a way to get them. If not guns, then bombs, knives, shovels, etcetera. We can’t outlaw evil. It is just not possible.”