Evil and carnage weren’t the only things evident on that terrible Sunday night in Las Vegas when bullets rained down on a crowd of 22,000 concertgoers.
There were also thousands of examples of heroism and self-sacrifice.
Many off-duty doctors, nurses and paramedics who were enjoying the concert sprang into action to help the wounded. These men and women risked their own lives to give CPR, make tourniquets, and apply pressure on bleeding wounds.
A mom used her own body to shield her 4-year-old daughter from the barrage of bullets.
One couple used their pickup truck to help take the injured to the hospital and find them medical care.
Other stories of heroism in Las Vegas that night on the part of brave men and women are emerging every day. But I’ve been struck by the number of accounts specifically about men literally laying down their lives to protect others, often women, in some cases individuals they didn’t even know.
Such was the case with Jonathan Smith. This 30-year-old copy machine repairman saved various people by encouraging folks paralyzed by fear to run for their lives and guiding them from the scene. Similarly, firefighter Steve Keys was performing CPR on a woman when he was grazed by a bullet – yet instead of getting medical attention, he stayed on to help others.
And like has happened during other shootings, many men put themselves in danger shielding the women they were with.
- A 21-year-old Marine, Brendan Kelly, saved Renee Cesario, 23. Although they had only met a couple of hours before the shooting started, Brendan threw himself on top of Renee to protect her from the bullets. He then pulled her up and led her through the crowd to safety.
- Amy McAslin and her roommate Krystal Goddard were both saved by an anonymous man who, despite being shot, shielded them.“A gentleman — I don’t know his name — he completely covered me,” McAslin told CNN. “He covered my face. He said, ‘I’ve got you.’… Just truly incredible, (a) stranger, jumping over me to protect me.”
- When 18-year-old Addison Short was wounded in the knee as she tried to run away, a man – a stranger – used his belt to wrap her leg in a tourniquet, picked her up, and put her in a taxi that took her to a hospital.
- Sonny Melton and his wife, Heather, were celebrating their first wedding anniversary at the concert. “He saved my life,” she said. “He grabbed me and started running when I felt him get shot in the back.” Sonny later died from his injuries.
The reality is the true nature of who we are comes forth in unguarded moments. And despite all the accusations of “toxic masculinity” in the culture, on that night there was only one bad man – the shooter.
But there was a sea of good men in Las Vegas who sacrificed themselves as terror reigned around them.
And the characteristics society sometimes criticizes men for – their take-charge attitude, or their desire to protect the women around them – were precisely what made them heroes that night.
No one cared about gender parity on Sunday night. There were no complaints about why 50 percent of the rescuers weren’t women. As with so many other recent large-scale tragedies—from 9/11 to the aftermath of the recent hurricanes—it is largely men who step up and do the dangerous work. And it is right for men to do it.
This vividly underscores the truth that masculinity in and of itself isn’t toxic. It’s about how it’s channeled and what it’s used for. Good men use their masculinity for good – and bad men use it for evil.
Men, let us always use it for good.