I’m not sure it totally hit me until his voice cracked and his eyes welled with tears and he began to sob uncontrollably.
How far can one’s heart plummet when the profound sadness being exposed across the screen of a smartphone is that of your child?
I know now. There isn’t a cliff high enough to measure such a drop.
My son is 19 and absolutely loves Las Vegas. He wasn’t born here, didn’t arrive until age 6, but considers it the only home for which he wants to be associated.
He has given us strict orders: Don’t sell the house. I’m eventually coming back and never leaving.
He telephoned from college back east on Monday, having awoken to the senseless evil of one crazed man, the death toll still not likely settled on a final number. My son watched videos of horror tweeted throughout the night, frightening images of a mass shooting at a country music festival, moving snapshots of unfathomable fear and chaos and slaughter.
And then I told him how much he is loved and to remember a quote from one of his sister’s favorite movies: Grief does not change you. It reveals you.
What such sorrow has displayed in the hours following those tragic moments is that we as a city and state can’t be broken, that together we are much stronger than any singular force of abomination.
That when survival mode demands protecting and saving, our first responders in police and fire and SWAT run toward bedlam and possible death rather than away from it.
That when blood is needed, thousands upon thousands wait up to eight hours in line to donate. That when the dying and critical and injured arrive to valley hospitals in various gruesome states, the skill of our trauma doctors and nurses saves countless lives.
That when food and water and clothes and shelter are lacking necessities, we deliver them. That when someone such as Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak begins a GoFundMe account Monday morning with a $10,000 pledge to assist victims, more than 39,000 raise the total to more than $2.8 million by Monday night.
That when catastrophe impacts us in a way it never has, piercing our souls with the rhythmic and steady tone of a fully automatic assault rifle clicking off one high-capacity magazine after another, we fight back.
There is no red or blue of Nevada today, no north or south, no left or right.
The world has seen a picture of Las Vegas united in spirit and resolve, far more powerful than one of two busted hotel windows out of which terror was sprayed upon the innocent.
It was early Monday when my flight from Denver descended toward McCarran International Airport, and from the window appeared an outline of a city that never will be the same. But it will be stronger. It will overcome this hideous act of terror, because we have in a moment’s time already revealed a sense of humanity that refuses for evil to win.
And then my phone rang, and his face appeared and I heard his voice and saw his tears and tried my best to answer when he asked how anyone could do such a thing.
And when it was time to say goodbye, I told him he was loved and to be proud of his city, of his home, of Las Vegas.
That in the absolute worst hour of its existence, it was exhibiting its finest qualities.
That in the face of indescribable pain, it stands as one.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.