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A Sense of Unity and Strength: Las Vegas Aftermath

Angie Gomez

She was just 20 years old, enjoying a night out with her boyfriend Ethan Sanchez at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas along with thousands of other country music fans. Angie Gomez was my cousin. Her dad Steve and I would play baseball together as kids, and we’ve kept up throughout the years.

Angie was the youngest of Steve and Julie’s five children. I remember the time she admired a pair of earrings my mom was wearing, and my mom gave them to her. I remember seeing pictures of her cheering on the sidelines for Poly High School in Riverside, Calif., or from her prom night, or her passion for the Riverside Children’s Theater, or from her many adventures.

She was a nursing student with a beautiful smile, a love for life and a good future ahead of her until that fateful night in Las Vegas.

Angie was the youngest of the 58 victims killed when a shooter on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino opened fire on the festival.

Angie Gomez

I couldn’t help but think about Angie and her family as I traveled to Las Vegas for IMEX America, the meeting and event industry’s annual trade show. It’s always been a week for camaraderie, whether in education sessions, on the trade show floor or at the many industry networking events.

My first stop was at the iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign, where I joined hundreds of people that Sunday morning in a somber procession past wooden crosses honoring the 58 victims. Many were leaving tributes at each cross such as flowers, candles or hand-written messages. I found Angie’s cross and left a state flag from all her family in Texas. It was an overwhelming and moving moment, not just as I thought of Angie and the other victims, but as I witnessed so many acts of kindness and support for a community ravaged by a senseless act.

“At 10:05 [p.m.] on October 1, life as we knew it was shattered. At 10:15, our lives were united,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, acknowledging those who helped take victims to the hospital, the hospitality industry workers who rushed to the scene and the nearby business owners who provided shelter.

“The best of what we are happened that night,” he said. “Everyone rallied.”

So, too, did the meeting and event industry. Ray Bloom, chairman of the IMEX Group, did not waver in his decision to move forward with the show.

“We think it is very fitting that we came to Las Vegas this week, and all of the industry leaders are here,” Bloom said. “The world sees Las Vegas as a city of lights, but for those of us in the hospitality industry it’s also like a village. For the industry to come together this week is very important for the city of Las Vegas and the industry to show that it is back to normal.”

Normal. I can’t tell you what normal is. I know for Steve, Julie and their family, and for Ethan, they struggle with their new normal, a life without Angie. Our friends and colleagues at MGM, which owns the Mandalay Bay and the event venue, must cope with their unwitting association with this tragic incident.

A successful IMEX America ended with the industry embracing a sense of unity, of strength, of inspiration, of resolve, of prayer and hope for Las Vegas and Houston and Florida and Mexico and Puerto Rico, and now California.

To the meeting and event industry, thank you. To my Gomez family, my prayers are with you and our dear Angie.

Keep the faith.

Until next time…


About the Author

Rich
Rich Luna

Rich Luna is director of publishing for MPI and editor in chief of The Meeting Professional.