I picked up Where We Live because it features my brother-and-sister-in-law’s house on the front cover.
It’s not exactly their house. But it’s a good approximation of what nearly every house in North Las Vegas looks like: tan-and-brown exterior, tiled roof, big enough to comfortably house a family of four (and even my in-laws’ family of seven). Once you get into the North Vegas ‘burbs, most every house looks like the one on this cover, to an extent.
Which is the point, I think. The strip, the casinos, the hotels, those are the places tourists go to experience the Vegas everyone expects. But houses like the one pictured above? Those are where the people of Vegas live.
My wife and I travel to Vegas nearly every Thanksgiving. When I tell co-workers or acquaintances what I’m doing over the holiday, they ask if I’m going to gamble or see a show or spend a day on the strip. I say, “No. We’re going to be with our family.”
We spend most of our time at the house that looks very much like the house pictured above, playing card games and roughhousing with our nieces and nephews. Chatting with my in-laws over morning coffee. Sometimes, we venture out to the park down the street or attend an afternoon soccer practice. It is, overall, a very nice time. It is not the Vegas I experienced the first time I went to Vegas, but it is the Vegas I prefer.
And it is that Vegas, as well as the one everyone sees on movies and TV, that was attacked a year ago, when a man fired more than 1,100 rounds into a Jason Aldean concert from his room on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay.
All proceeds from the Where We Live anthology go to Route 91 Strong. For that reason alone, it is a worthy purchase. In the past, I have not contributed to these sorts of funds. In the wake of most American shootings (of which there are far too many), I did what I think most of us who live removed from the affected locales do. I read the news. I voiced my opinion. I commiserated with the killed, the injured, and the survivors. And I went about my life.
This time, the morning after the shooting, I texted my sister-in-law to see if she and her family were okay. They were, but friends of theirs were not.
The next week, the woman who runs our community garden told us her daughter was at the shooting. She’d been excited to travel to Vegas for the music festival. Now, she was having trouble dealing with what she’d witnessed. The woman, Betty, was also clearly shaken. It was a rare cool summer day in Fresno, California. We spent it worrying about what the hell is going on in our country and why we can’t get anything done on gun control.
You’ll find discussions of those sorts of things, as well as many others, within Where We Live. You’ll also see and read survivors’ stories; you’ll watch as people just like you untangle complicated feelings about tragedy and surviving and guns and mental illness and all the other things people discuss in the wake of one of these events. You will not be preached to. You will be told stories.
And then, hopefully, you will do something. You will write your representative or join a march or consider someone else’s opinion or at least have a conversation with someone about this particular type of tragedy that seems to happen here, and almost only here, in the United States.
I’ll leave you with a couple Where We Live pages that pretty obviously stuck with me, from Matthew Sorvillo and Sean Phillips’s contribution, “Shaken, Not Deterred.” Until next time, do what you can.