Greg Bosworth was at home Sunday night watching Netflix when his wife walked into the room, shaking with the phone in her hand. It was their daughter.
“I’m OK. Don’t watch the news,” the text read.
In a phone conversation a few moments later, 23-year-old daughter, Louisa, told her parents there had been a large shooting, that she was covered in blood, separated from her friends and hiding in a stairwell in the Tropicana Las Vegas hotel, which was on lockdown.
“She says, ‘I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do.’ And I don’t know what we do, just be safe, be calm,” Greg Bosworth said at Bellingham International Airport Monday afternoon while waiting for Louisa’s flight to land.
Louisa and her two close friends, Gabbi and Milly Evans, were at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival Sunday night when a lone gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, killing at least 59 people and wounding more than 500. It’s the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
At the Bellingham airport Monday afternoon, dozens of people waited for loved ones, clutching each other, their phones and even a few small dogs as they waited for Allegiant Air flight 1811, the first one to land coming from Vegas. Several people were pacing, while others were already in tears.
One man was waiting for his son, another couple for their daughter.
Minutes before 2 p.m. phones started dinging with text messages. “They’re here, they’re here,” one woman said. “It’s on the ground, it’s on the ground,” another said of the Airbus 319’s landing.
“We’re so happy we’re here,” Louisa texted her dad.
As people began exiting the plane into the airport lobby, family members ran to their loved ones and pulled them into tight embraces. Most sobbed, while others let out sighs of relief.
Greg Bosworth said he and his wife, of Bowen Island, B.C., stayed up all night watching the news “for what seemed like forever,” trying to feed Louisa and her friends information on the situation.
“We didn’t plan to be here. We don’t know. We’re just experiencing it for the first time, this kind of randomness, but there’s relief,” Bosworth said. “We’re grateful, but we’ve had an event that is going to impact all of us.”
Bosworth said he had already sent emails to trauma counselors to help the family process the tragedy.
“She said the guy beside her got hit. And … they said when he (gunman) was firing they’re down, when he was reloading they’re up and running,” Bosworth said of his daughter's experience. “Her friend had to step over a dead body apparently. I’m almost 60, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a dead body, so I don’t know what as a 24-year-old how that’s going to impact her for the rest of her life to have had to deal with that.”
Bosworth said he didn’t believe a similar event could happen in Canada because the general public aren’t allowed to carry guns. He said he didn’t understand why the United States allowed the possession of semiautomatic weapons, or why President Donald Trump was standing by the Second Amendment after the tragic event.
“You’re the only country on the planet that has the amount of weapons that you have in the public’s hands. And a small percentage of the public aren’t stable. That’s a recipe for, well, what we’re dealing with now,” Bosworth said. “I’m sorry but you guys got some work to do. I love you as neighbors, but you’ve got some work to do.”
Bosworth said as he and his wife were driving down from Canada, they were searching for a reason. Normally he tells himself there’s a reason things happened, but not this time.
“You can’t answer that question in any way, shape or form. This is random and inexplicable and all we want is an explanation, we want something to hang our hat on as we recover and as we process, and you can’t,” he said. “My only question is why. Norms, logic and decency do not apply here and so the man (shooter) was sick and unable to get the help he needed, and so the result is what the result is.”
Several Whatcom County residents also arrived on the flight. Several others from the Bellingham area, including Jeff Bannerman, of Ferndale, were arriving on later flights throughout the day.
Bannerman told the Seattle Times he and his wife had “nine people in our group and one of the girls had some scratches and bruises on her legs from crawling underneath bleachers. Other than that everybody’s fine.”
A Lummi Nation tribal member, Melinda Brockie, was one of the injured. Her family said she is recovering following surgery.