I didn’t want to go. At least, I felt very uncomfortable about it, the timing, and yet, I had given my word to attend. Work is work, and timing, it turns out, isn’t everything.
For months I had been part of a group on social media that was loudly promoting our collective excitement about a press road trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, bookended on either side by an incredible live music experience and all the hashtags that go with it. We were going to have #fun, and we didn’t want the world to miss a minute.
Overall, it promised to be an amazing adventure with a brand that I believe in, bands that I enjoy, and people that I care about, but then, just a few days prior to the event, terrorism showed itself in Las Vegas, and with it the heavy swirl of perspective where joy once twirled, openly. Suddenly, a thing we had tossed about freely became, out of respect and decency, both hesitant and delicate. Its very existence no longer seemed appropriate.
The truth is, there are thousands of things that matter more than a bunch of “internet influencers” rolling down I-15 in awesome cars, tweeting like the wind. That was the case long before Las Vegas was attacked, and it will certainly be the case long after America’s collective conversation turns to the next well-armed tragedy, the consistent clockwork of our modern society. Why then, would it matter how our campaign proceeded?
It matters because social media is a billboard and the water cooler, but also a mirror of who we are, and despite countless examples to the contrary, frequent users of it should exhibit a healthy amount of decorum. When tragedy strikes, be it terrorism, natural disaster or other, we need to look beyond the sea of avatars and connect at levels far more human. Social media should not be the means to bypass real connection, but rather a tool to help foster it. After all, what is life without community, regardless of where you find it?
What happened in Las Vegas was disgusting and heart-wrenching, stretching tendrils of trauma into families and communities around the world, and all I, we, wanted to do was show our support for those closest to it. We wanted to support the community, even if it was something as simple as just being there.
That is why I went on the trip, and I am glad that I did.
To be clear, I’m not trying to pretend that our presence in Las Vegas meant much to anyone, or that we did something even remotely special by going, but our not going would have meant something, and that was not a message I cared to send.
Kia, the brand that sponsored the event, was wonderful, providing the experience promised, including quality time in the newest Soul, but also an open conversation about the entire situation and an understanding of our place in it. The bands, specifically Kings of Leon who donated the proceeds from their concert to help the Las Vegas victims and their families, kept their promises, too, by showing up to play music and champion life rather than let an act of terror change the way we live it. And the people that traveled with me? They were the absolute best. Between us there were tears, laughs, hugs and talks that went far beyond any sort of sponsored opportunity and dug deeper the wells of growing friendship.
As for the people of Las Vegas, they were grieving and they were strong. They were coping with honest grace and the welcome know of community. They are there today, between open wounds and the promise of pending scars, and they will grow stronger still, long after tomorrow fades and the lights always shining.