Despite Painful Tragedy, Las Vegas and Its Wonders Stand Strong

Las Vegas Strip and sign
Photo: gongzstudio/123RF

On Monday, October 2, I woke to horrific news about the largest mass shooting in US history, which took place during a concert in Las Vegas Sunday night. 58 dead, 527 injured by a shooter spraying bullets from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay.

The images were surreal. I couldn’t wrap my head around the tragedy. So many innocent people out for a good time at a country music concert, never knowing this night would either be their last or that it would change their lives forever.

I grieve for these people, for our country—where these unspeakable mass murders have become far too common—and for beautiful Las Vegas, which is still reeling in agony. I hope this crazed gunman won’t stop people from visiting what I consider to be an adult Disney World.

Even if one doesn’t gamble, which I rarely do, Vegas is full of spectacular attractions. From the moment I step off the airplane, I am energized.

My husband and I returned from Vegas late Saturday night, September 30, after our annual family reunion. When my dad passed away in 1999, I reached out to his only living sibling, Uncle Herbie. He moved to Los Angeles with his wife, Aunt Elaine, when I was little girl, so I didn’t know them growing up. But after losing my dad, it became important to connect with my uncle, who moved to Vegas from LA after Aunt Elaine died.

Uncle Herbie with Barbara Anne Kirshner and Fay
With Uncle Herbie and Fay

For my first Vegas trip, Uncle Herbie got his daughter Lisa and me a room at Mandalay Bay. I was awed by this magnificent hotel, designed to replicate a Caribbean island with its man-made beach and lazy river.

That was my first annual pilgrimage. Sometimes I travel with my husband, Gregg, and sometimes with my dear friend, Adrienne, but one thing remains constant: I am in Vegas on September 27 to celebrate Uncle Herbie’s birthday with him and his significant other, Fay, who he met in 2001.

Part of the Vegas fun is staying at different hotels, since each one presents its own unique adventure. There’s the Luxor with its giant pyramid topped by a brilliant light beam; the Bellagio with dancing fountains and seasonally designed atrium; Crystals at City Center, a complex of shops connecting the Aria, Vdara and Cosmopolitan Hotels; Paris’ Eiffel Tower with its aerial view of the strip; Caesar’s Palace with simulated ancient Roman streets and Atlantis special effects show; and—my favorite for its all-suite rooms—the Venetian, which is attached to the Palazzo housing a replica of St. Mark’s Square and a canal replete with serenading gondoliers.

Wonders of Las Vegas
Wonders of Las Vegas, Photo: Songquan Deng/123RF

My mornings start with breakfast at an outdoor cafe. Then I explore hotels and search out anything new.

One year, a giant Ferris wheel, the High Roller, materialized and changed the landscape of the strip. This year, Minus5° Ice Bar opened at the Venetian. I slipped into a white, faux fur coat and gloves, and was then immersed in this frozen wonderland featuring everything from ice chairs to ice drinking glasses, to ice sculptures and ice chandeliers.

This year, I did stop at a slot machine when Ellen DeGeneres’ smiling face beckoned me to it. I started pressing buttons and my chair rocked, neon lights flashed and the video screen pictures spun. I walked away with $52.64 and was thrilled. For someone who generally doesn’t gamble, it was like winning the lottery. Thank you very much, Ellen!

Barbara Anne Kirshner with husband Gregg
Outside the ice bar, Photo: Barbara Anne Kirshner

I sit here writing this one week after the annihilation. No one has the right to take lives and desecrate a place created to make people happy. I want others to feel the exuberance I feel every time I arrive in Las Vegas.

I see DeGeneres’ smiling face and hear her daily closing words, “Be kind to one another.”

I pray we heed her message.

Barbara Anne Kirshner is the author of Madison Weatherbee-The Different Dachshund, a children’s book and musical. She is a regular contributor to

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