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‘Heartbroken, angry, and incredibly proud’

Fewer than 24 hours after a lone gunman shot hundreds of concertgoers from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay, killing 58 of them, the chairman and CEO of the corporation that owns the hotel attended an interfaith prayer vigil at the Guardian Angel Cathedral on the Las Vegas Strip. He told the hundreds of people gathered there — some holding the person next to them tightly, others crying quietly — that “one could easily fall into despair” were it not for the countless acts of courage and generosity the city had already done. He spoke to Desert Companion following the vigil about how he was feeling.


How are you?

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I'm heartbroken, angry, and incredibly proud. I'm heartbroken for the families, victims, and so many people who have been so profoundly emotionally and physically hurt. I'm angry that this could happen, and so many people's lives have been forever impacted. But I'm also incredibly proud, because I've seen first-hand the courage of the first-responders, Metro, fire (departments), nurses, doctors, AMR (ambulance company) that transported victims, and my employees; the incredible passion to help others and the acts of kindness that overwhelmed this inhumane act; these thousands upon thousands of humane acts that, in a dark moment of despair … give you hope. 


You mentioned in your remarks during the vigil that your partners — even your competitors — had reached out to show their support. Can you give me one example of those conversations with a competitor?

Well, Mark Frissora (president and CEO) at Caesars called me today, asked what he could do to help. We talked about coordinating relief efforts, finding rooms for people, working on blood banks and communications, logistics. As you know, MGM Resorts has 50,000 employees here, but we have friends at every property, and this was not an attack on Mandalay Bay or MGM Resorts. This was an attack on humanity and our community. And I'm incredibly touched by the outpouring of support we've gotten from the resort corridor, our entertainment partners, our food and beverage partners, our healthcare partners, the unions, the elected officials. I know we're not alone in this.

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For those who might not be familiar, can you give us a quick summary of the terrorism response task force that encompasses the Strip, including MGM?

After 9/11, the federal government, Homeland Security, Metro, and the resort corridor rallied together and created an extremely integrated, highly sophisticated communications and security network. This network is not only activated frequently for major events in town, whether it's a holiday or a major sporting or entertainment event, but was also designed to be activated in any kind of emergency, whether a natural disaster or manmade. So, within minutes that coordinated effort was activated, and as you've probably heard from others, it saved untold numbers of lives, because of the ability of our community to rally and respond so quickly.


It had lost some federal funding in recent years, had it not?

Yes, there had been some funding gaps, but the resort community has bridged those gaps. Metro also had reached out years ago for additional funding for police officers. To every sheriff that's come into my office over the last 19 years, my answer has always been, "Yes," before he has an opportunity to even ask me the question, because what they have always done is so incredibly courageous that there's no amount of resources or gratitude that could match it.

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If you could speak directly to those who were there and their families and loved ones, what would you say?

I'm heartbroken. I — I care deeply. … I will commit everything that I have in myself and my company to help anyone, any family, that needs our help. I am incredibly sad, but I'm also incredibly resolute that we'll do everything in our power as a company and a community to help those who have been hurt, either emotionally or physically. We can never do enough, but we'll do everything we can.


Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.