The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Las Vegas Shooting Feels Close to Home

Students and Expert Talk Concert Safety in NYC

Some St. John’s students have expressed fear in the wake of Sunday’s shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.  

When junior Katie Bagarella heard the news of the Las Vegas shooting, she said she started to cry.

“After seeing the videos and pictures people had posted from the shooting, it gave me chills,” she said. “It made me try to put myself in the these people’s shoes, or their families’ shoes, and I cannot even imagine what they went through.”

On the night of Sunday, Oct. 1., Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nev. unleashed a rapid-fire barrage of bullets from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel into a crowd of more than 22,000 people, killing 59 and injuring more than 500 concert goers, according to police. NBC News stated that the shooting is not believed to be connected to international terrorism.

Festival headliner Jason Aldean was in the middle of performing his set when shots were fired, leading to a chaotic, bloody scene that lasted up to 10 minutes.  

President Donald Trump called the shooting “an act of pure evil” and Assistant Clark County Sheriff Todd Fasulo told reporters that Paddock was “solely responsible for this heinous act.”

New York City is a worldwide hub for entertainment and nightlife, and many St. John’s students attend concerts, music festivals or clubs on a weekly basis.

Senior Julia Bennefeld believes the concern for safety is real, and will be for a long time.

“In my last two years of college I’ve been traveling to other states more, going to concerts in Jersey and football games in Texas because I’m young and it’s fun to be in my twenties and be adventurous,” she said. “The Jason Aldean concert in Las Vegas is something any of my friends and I could have decided to attend on a whim. I see people from my high school and family friends who were there and it all becomes much more real.”

St. John’s Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Legal Studies and Homeland Security Richard Frankel, J.D. advised students to always be aware of their surroundings at large gatherings.

“When you go to a concert or sporting event, just make sure that you know where the closest exit is,” Frankel said. “See what the easiest exit route is, in a sense it may not be the one that’s closest to you. It may be the one that is farther away and has less people in the way.

“It’s going to be a mad dash for the door. And you may not be the first one there, but just keep calm and go for the exits.”

However Frankel, who is also a Law Enforcement Contributor/Commentator for ABC News, said these events should not keep students from attending concerts. “You know I have kids college-aged, I can’t stop them from going to concerts or anything like that,” he said. “I just want them to be safe.”

Bennefeld said her feelings of safety have changed because of recent tragedies.

“I go to multiple concerts, big and small, every year,” she said. “Going to concerts, my parents always said ‘have fun & be safe’ but I always kind of brushed it off. Then the attack at the Ariana Grande concert happened and it was a big deal. I thought that was too far from home for me to be concerned and nothing like that could possibly happen at an event I’d go to. This incident in Las Vegas hit much closer to home.”

In recent months a pattern has formed in that music festivals, concerts and clubs are targeted for acts of terror and violence.

On May 22, Ariana Grande’s “Dangerous Woman Tour” concert in Manchester, England left 23 people dead and more than 250 injured following an ISIS-claimed bomb explosion outside of the Manchester Arena.

On June 12, 2016, just a year before, a gunman opened fire at Pulse Nightclub, an LGBTQ community spot, in Orlando, Fla. in which 49 were killed and 58 wounded. It was later released that the shooter claimed allegiance to ISIS, according to CNN. Before the Las Vegas shooting on Sunday, this was deemed the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter in American history.

Junior Emily Tramontana attended the Meadows Music and Arts Festival at Citi Field last month and admitted she worries about her safety when going to music festivals.

“Even with the increased security at recent festivals and events, there is still a part of me that is nervous. Even though these devastating incidents have been occurring, I will not allow them to prevent me from going to events like these,” she said.

Bagarella went to the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park last week and agreed with Tramontana in that the worry for her safety is always in the back of her head.

“It was the same thing when I studied abroad in the spring, so many tragic attacks occurred while I was there and sure I always had the worry in the back of my head but at the end of the day you can’t live your life in fear all the time,” Bagarella said.


SJU President’s Response


St. John’s President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw highlighted ways people can help in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting tragedy in a statement emailed to the university community on Tuesday.

“During these challenging times, it is understandable that one would feel both anxious and helpless. However, as a Catholic and Vincentian University, we fully embrace the call to help those most in need at all times,” Gempesaw said.

Gempesaw invited students to support the National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Disaster Services Corporation (DSC) whose mission is to “respond to disasters such as floods, wildfires, tornadoes and other events throughout the United States. The DSC trains Regional Response Teams as well as individual Vincentians throughout the country to compassionately serve victims of disasters” as well as to donate blood at the school’s next blood drive to show the University’s solidarity with Las Vegas.

Gempesaw also mentioned the National Compassion Fund, which helps the victims’ families and the injured in Las Vegas. The fund has previously partnered up with the relatives of victims of disasters like 9/11 and the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.

“If you or someone you care about is experiencing distress related to recent events, or if these events have triggered memories of past difficult experiences, please contact the Center for Counseling and Consultation. For additional support resources and materials, please visit Additionally, Campus Ministry is another strong source of support for community members,” Gempesaw said.

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Isabella Bruni
Isabella Bruni, Managing Editor
Isabella Bruni is a senior journalism major with a minor in Italian and International Studies. Isabella hopes to maintain the Torch’s vast news coverage and increase its online presence all while focusing on managing the business side of the newspaper and building relationships with advertisers. She has been part of the Torch since her freshman year starting as a copy editor, becoming chief copy editor her sophomore year and then news editor her junior year. Have any questions? Email Isabella at [email protected] or [email protected] 
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