“I feel like we kind of mourned yesterday,” said Tre Marino, a landscaper from Asheville, North Carolina, who was playing table shuffleboard Tuesday evening with friends at a bar across from the MGM Grand hotel. “We were definitely a little down yesterday and just hung by the pool. But this is Vegas.”
It’s not as if the famous Strip ignored the massacre by a 64-year-old retired accountant who killed himself as police closed in. The black-trimmed hotel marquees asked for prayers for the victims and offered thanks to first responders.
A small makeshift memorial was set up outside the Bellagio and at the famous roadside sign that welcomes tourists to “fabulous Las Vegas.” And there were far more police officers than usual, with a handful clustered on the sidewalk in front of almost every resort.
But in a place where normal is sometimes hard to define, little else seemed amiss. This is a city built on adult fun, where on any given day several hundred thousand visitors are looking for a good time. Many were finding it again, whether eating at a nice restaurant, seeing a show or gambling, even while the attack was still fresh in their minds.
“It’s really hard because we know how people feel after losing someone. We feel it every day,” said Smadar Ori, a teacher who was visiting from Israel with her husband, Mickey. “But the show must go on. We’re not going to let terrorists dictate our lives.”
The people who live in Las Vegas started lining up to give blood only hours after the attack. There were still lines at blood centers on Tuesday, even as authorities put out the word that there was enough blood for everyone. A GoFundMe account for the victims raised $8.2 million in two days, and people drove truckloads of water and other supplies to a family assistance center.
For the thousands of people who were only visiting Vegas, the show went on. Celine Dion played to a big crowd at Caesars Palace, and the “Ka” show at the MGM Grand was sold out for the night. People lined up at a discount ticket booth outside Bally’s to get seats for Donny and Marie Osmond, and those looking for a good time on the cheap could get into the “Crazy Girls” show for $43.
A loop on the giant High Roller observation wheel was $22, with an open bar in the cabin for $30 more.
In front of Planet Hollywood, where Jennifer Lopez canceled a series of shows beginning Wednesday out of respect for the shooting victims, a sidewalk booth was offering temporary tattoos that wash off in five days. Next door, two older men walked by a replica of the Eiffel Tower, wearing baseball caps reading “Vegas High Roller” and “Vegas Virgin.”
In an incongruous moment, a mobile billboard truck inched by with a big color sign flashing an invitation to visit Battlefield Vegas, a gun range where the special of the day was $29 to fire an AK-47.
Most shows played as usual Tuesday night. That included magician Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller, who canceled his Monday night performance at the Rio.
“We took our show off last night to be respectful, but those people that were shot, they didn’t want the world to stop,” Jillette said while donating platelets at a blood center. “Nobody wants the world to stop when there’s a tragedy. They want it to go on.”
Some 43 million people visit Las Vegas every year, and there’s no shortage of things for them to do.
The latest UFC pay-per-view will go on as scheduled Saturday night on the Strip, and the Los Angeles Lakers play a practice game in the same arena the next day.
Next Tuesday, the city’s first major league pro team starts home play. The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights will be joined in a few years by the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders in a new $1.9 billion stadium just off the Strip.
The city will probably adopt some new restrictions on traffic into hotels and casinos. But just as the city rebounded from a 1980 fire at the MGM Grand that killed 85 people, leaders are already promising to come back from this.
It’s a place they hope will keep appealing to people like Larry and Mary Louise Sutherland, a couple from the small town of Picpou in Nova Scotia. They were sitting outside the New York-New York casino after spending the previous day in their hotel room because they were afraid to go out in the wake of the shooting.
“This was on our bucket list,” said Sutherland, an iron worker. “This place is amazing to us. We’re just from a little town and it’s all overwhelming.”
“I feel for the victims,” he quickly added. “But we had to make the best of it.”