We had been planning this trip for months.

It was a trip with great friends — you know, the kind of trip without the kids, without the job and without the worries. We just wanted to get away, enjoy each other’s company and have a good time enjoying another friend’s 40th birthday. “Good eats, good drinks, good times,” we called it.

The destination — Las Vegas. And, like I said, we were looking forward to it for a long time.

Now, before you think the worst, I will say this: We were never in harm’s way, we weren’t even on The Strip when a shooter opened fire from a hotel room window, unleashing carnage on a crowd at a country music festival Sunday evening, killing at least 59 and injuring more than 500. We stayed in old Las Vegas down on Freemont Street.

We got there Friday morning, and we had a good time. It was your typical trip to Las Vegas — we gambled, we lost, met some interesting people and spent way too much money on food and drinks. We got to sit by the pool in the beautiful weather. We got to hear good music on Freemont Street. We got to see some interesting characters in the same place.

Needless to say, it was a great time with great people — until we woke up (very) early Monday to get ready to head to the airport and come back home and back to reality.

Unfortunately, reality came before we ever boarded that airplane. Reality came when I woke up and turned on my phone to see what time it was.

The first message was a news alert — “USA Today: 50 dead, at least 200 injured in Las Vegas Strip shooting,” it read. After that came messages from friends and family, as well as other alerts from other news sources.

That’ll get your attention real quick, especially when you’re in that early morning haze of waking up. Then, you’re mind starts wandering. What if this? What if that?

What if we booked a hotel near Mandalay Bay and not one on Freemont Street?

What if my friend, who was also in town and staying on The Strip, hadn’t left Sunday morning to go back to attend to a family matter?

What if we decided to go to that concert on Sunday?

What if we decided to go down to The Strip for dinner Sunday evening?

It makes you realize how much impact each decision you make really has — and how delicate life really is.

We didn’t spend all of our time on Freemont Street, we spent some time on The Strip as well. In fact, we were near Mandalay Bay on Friday night for dinner. We spent some time near there on Saturday as well.

In fact, we pondered going to The Strip for dinner Sunday night, too.

We were lucky. Nothing happened to us.

There were others who weren’t so lucky. There were others who planned the same trip we did. There were others who made decisions just slightly different from the ones we made. The only kind of luck we should be talking about with Las Vegas should have to how well one fared at a Blackjack or Craps table.

My heart goes out to the victims’ families. This was a senseless tragedy. Making a decision as simple going to a concert shouldn’t lead to the end of your life.

I realize there’s risk in everything — and I mean everything — we do. That’s just the world we live in.

And I also, realize there’s a lot to fear in today’s word. But we shouldn’t have to fear some lunatic on the 32nd floor of a hotel shooting into a crowd of people enjoying music. We shouldn’t have to fear planning a trip and not being able to come back to our families because of a mass shooting.

Is that too much to ask? I should hope not.

Tom English is the executive editor of The Southern Illinoisan. He can be reached at tom.english@thesouthern.com or 618-351-5070. You can follow him on Twitter at @tomenglish23.


Executive editor

Tom English is the executive editor of The Southern.

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