Author Archives: Annette

Las Vegas in the Aftermath

Las Vegas, Resilient City

Visiting Las Vegas in the Aftermath

When I heard about the mass shooting in Las Vegas, I thought of 9/11 and I felt the same sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was at the gym at the time and noticed that a friend of mine hadn’t greeted me with her usual chirpy demeanour. What’s wrong? I asked and when she told me, I hurried home.

On the drive home, I turned on CBC radio and heard Heather Gooze, a bartender in Las Vegas, who had helped the wounded when the mass shooting started. Gooze found herself holding a stranger’s hand, that of Jordan Mclldoon, a 25-year-old man from Maple Ridge, my home town.

Gooze recounted the moment Jordan’s hand went limp and he passed away. With his cell phone, she was able to contact his mom and his girlfriend, Amber, and had the terrible task of informing them that he hadn’t made it. Then she comforted them and stayed by Jordan’s side for four hours. Gooze was crying as she told her story and I remained in the car after I’d arrived home, listening and crying too. I wished I could give her a virtual hug across the miles.

Michael, my husband, was waiting for me at the front door. We both looked at each other, thinking about the family reunion we were to attend in Las Vegas, less than one week away. My brother lives in Las Vegas and my sister was flying in from Ohio, a sister, that neither my brother and I had seen in 30 years. Although we’ve always kept in touch by phone, my sister doesn’t travel. She’s anxious and afraid to fly. It took us ten years to persuade her to make this trip. This Las Vegas holiday would be her first holiday ever.

We were afraid she’d cancel. We were afraid the happy reunion we’d envisioned would be spoiled by the tragedy. The city would be depressing and sad. How could it not be? I thought if I laughed or sang or danced at The Australian Bee Gees Tribute Show, (my sister and I love their music) I’d feel a kind of survivor’s guilt. I hadn’t lost anyone in the attack, yet like many others, I have been deeply affected by it.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We are caught in an inescapable web of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” Events like what happened in Las Vegas makes us feel that the world is a terrible place. We feel the ache of disillusionment, even though we’re not surprised. I worried that visiting Las Vegas so soon after this tragedy would be terrible.

I was wrong. It was a good time to go. People in the city (tourists, residents and workers) seemed connected by a common bond. It was as if people had decided to show their best selves. Everyone seemed more welcoming and helpful than at other times when I visited. The sense of connection among people was palpable. One small example among many, my sister, had difficulty walking in the heat and had to stop to catch her breath. A stranger waiting in a van got out and handed her a bottle of water, without a word. We stayed at the Tropicana, in view of Mandalay Bay. The staff couldn’t do enough for us. Maybe it was their way of resisting the kind of hatred and resentment that led to such a heinous act.

We visited the Memorial along Route #91 under the Welcome to Las Vegas sign where 58 crosses delivered by a retired carpenter, Greg Zanis. Zanis has delivered more than 20,000 crosses across the US for murder victims since 1996 when his brother was murdered. Millions of dollars in donations were raised for the victims and their families.

We also visited The Community Healing Garden, a half acre plot donated by the city, dedicated to the victims. Amazingly, the memorial was completed in four days with thousands of volunteers. Cement was poured, 58 trees were planted along with shrubs and flowers. When we visited, there were only 4 or 5 other people there, besides an old man quietly playing a guitar. This was a place to reflect, share stories and weep. It was a contrast to the Route #91 Memorial with hundreds of visitors. Both of these memorials were moving.

What struck me most was the resilience of the city. We saw the hash tag #Vegas Strong everywhere, on tee shirts and on the marquees along the strip, along with the phrase ‘When things get dark, Las Vegas shines.’

To be honest, I’d never been a fan of Las Vegas before now, even though my brother and his family live there, but somehow the tragedy that broke the city’s heart revealed its tender centre. Las Vegas will never be the same but the forces for the good rallied around her, And for that reason alone, I will return. Plus my sweet sister, on her very first holiday, having never gambled, put in two dollars in a slot machine and won $1250 dollars.

Nightmare at Meadow Lake

Bats, mice, packrat, hornets

Nightmare at Meadow Lake The first bat flew above our heads as we lay in bed reading in our cabin at Meadow Lake. It was ten at night and I immediately yelped and hid under the sheets. My husband, Michael, bolted up and ran to the lakeside door of the cabin and then to the…Continue Reading

Backpacking in the Chilcotin

Backpacking in the Chilcotin

Sometimes life offers you a challenge — a six-day backpacking trip to the South Chilcotin. Sure, you know it will be a struggle as Michael, my backpacking husband, and 3 friends, Ken Williams and Sue & Keith Akenhead are younger and stronger than me. I’m five-foot tall and weigh 108 pounds. My backpack weighed 30…Continue Reading

Review of The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

The Best Kind of People is one of my favourite books this year. I read it in three days, unable to put it down. Whittall kept her readers off balance so we didn’t know whether the popular teacher, George, accused of sexual harassment and rape by several of his female students on a ski trip,…Continue Reading

Letter from a Grieving Mom

Letter from a Grieving Mom

On the day before I find out if Peace is an Offering will win the BC Book Prize in the Children’s Illustrated Literature category, I received a letter in the mail that meant as much to me as any literary award (though I’d be I thrilled if ‘Peace’ was chosen as the winner). The letter…Continue Reading

Wolf Cull, LNG, OM the Bridge Rant

The premier says betcha, learned that schtick from Sarah Palin, sitting in a helicopter shooting wolves, she ordered a wolf cull in BC, gave the go-ahead for poison and shooting, likes to emulate her American sister in the hood of the U.S. of A.   It’s about pretending to be working class, wearing a waitress…Continue Reading

For Paris: a poem

For Paris: a poem

Erasure: This is a process in which a writer extracts words, in the exact order as they appear in a text, ‘erasing’ the rest, to create a poem. I chose Susan Sontag’s On Photography. I opened Sontag’s book at a random page, spotted the word ‘Paris’ and began. For Paris i disparate events conducted with…Continue Reading

In Memoriam

In Memoriam

In Memoriam for Bailey Jerome Swaggart  I’ve never met Bailey Jerome Swaggart, a young soldier from West Monroe, Louisiana. I got to know him through his grieving mom, Shalia Swaggert, a woman I admire for her ability to find the brightness in even the darkest day— the day she found out that her son, only…Continue Reading

Peace Is An Offering

Peace Is An Offering

I wrote Peace is an Offering shortly after 9/11. I knew that after the planes hit the twin towers that the U.S. would go to war and that the world would be irrevocably changed. So I began to write the poem as a text for a picture book for children. I remembering writing it in…Continue Reading

Peace Is An Offering Reviews

‘A list of small lessons, that when added up, have a great impact…” Peace is an Offering is ‘affecting and heartfelt.’ Kirkus Review Peace is an Offering is a ‘beautiful book.’ … “(It’s) a wonderful way to remind not just children but yourself of the wonderful things that do and can exist in this world.…Continue Reading