NYU students visit Las Vegas to lend a helping hand

‘No one wants to go to their hometown because it’s where the worst shooting in modern American history happened’

A group of New York University students affiliated with the Bronfman Center made a seven-hour trip to Las Vegas this week to lend emotional and physical support to the victims and community tragically struck by what is described as the deadliest mass shooting in modern day American history.

In the early hours Monday morning, Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire from the window of his corner hotel room on the 32nd floor at the Mandalay Bay onto a crowd of 22,000 people at the Jason Aldean concert.

Less than 48 hours after the mass shooting, the managing director at the Bronfman Center, Rebekah Thornhill, reached out to former engagement intern at the center, Rose Asaf, a Las Vegas native, to organize a last-minute trip to Las Vegas and extend a helping hand to the community.

“My immediate family and friends are ok, but people with a few degrees of separation did not leave ok” Asaf said.

Rose Asaf is a Junior studying Politics and American Studies in the Social and Cultural Analysis Department in the College of Arts and Sciences. At 2:30 am, Asaf, a junior at NYU, received her first bit of notice of the attack on her phone.

“It was 8:30 pm and I was at a club meeting and got a text from Rebekah asking if I wanted to come to Vegas to do this trip,” Asaf said. “The Bronfman Center makes a point out of doing rapid response, direct service oriented trips after these types of tragedies such as sending a delegation after the tragedy in Orlando so they make a point to have a presence there and do what we can.”

Senior Associate Leadership and Strategic Partnership director, Dana Levinson, accompanied Rose and one other NYU student where they began their service at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). There, they met with the university’s Hillel, which was giving out bagels and chocolate chip cookies as well as support to the students.

“We assisted with those efforts and spoke to some students and their Hillel members to get a feel of what it was like to be a UNLV student directly after the attack and how they’re processing as a community” Asaf said.

Their next stop was at the United Blood Services, which was the primary location where people were donating blood after the attack. There, they dropped off bagels and food and spoke to some individuals who were working there.

“We provided physical and emotional support,” Asaf said. “The line to donate blood was eight hours long.”

Blood centers are urging those in the area to donate blood 10 days after the attack because they are currently at capacity, but blood is only good for 10 days and they will need more then.

The amazing work of our volunteers in #LasVegas was featured on @nbcnews tonight! (Full story at Facebook.com/bronfmancenter)

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The Bronfman group then visited the University Medical Center where they visited the family of a young girl, Samantha, who was shot in her calf at the concert.

Samantha was with her older brother at the concert, and at first they thought the shots were fireworks until they realized what was happening. Samantha fell to the ground as she realized she was shot and a stranger gave her his belt to wrap the wound and put her in a garbage can with wheels to push her out of the arena.

“People who attended the concert were waiting with pick-up trucks to take people to hospitals,” Asaf said. “University Medical Center is one of the only level one trauma units and it was filling up quickly, but it was people coming together and the initiative of strangers that got her to the hospital so quickly.”

Many of the victims, including Samantha, must live with the bullets in their bodies until it’s ok to take them out because removing the bullets can cause more trauma.

“There’s an orthodox synagogue that we’re connected with and this man whose daughter was shot was an engineer at this synagogue for 33-years and just recently moved out to Vegas, so we connected through the New York Jewish community and spent time with his entire family,” Asaf said. “It was very powerful that we provided them with support even though we didn’t know them until we walked through the hospital door.”

The students offered whatever support they could by sitting with the family for hours and are going to check in with the family upon arrival to New York.

Although many concert-goers left physically unscathed, the entire city has been left psychologically damaged.

“The community came together and that was really powerful for me to see. I don’t even know the adjective it was just a moving and really unique experience,” Asaf said. “No one wants to go to their hometown because it’s where the worst shooting in modern American history happened. I’m very grateful that the Bronfman Center put this together.”