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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 29, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 52
Sad days in music: Manchester and Las Vegas concert attacks claim more than 80 lives this year
Arts & Entertainment
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Sad days in music: Manchester and Las Vegas concert attacks claim more than 80 lives this year

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

I never used to think about something tragic happening to me at a concert. Although I damaged my ribcage twice at two separate shows by dancing in the mosh pit, and nearly suffocated at another by getting too close to the stage on a really hot day, this all came with the territory; it was the result of being wild and not paying attention. But in terms of violence, someone else inflicting pain on me, or worse, wanting to kill me, that thought had never crossed my mind before. That a total stranger would choose a live show, where people are listening to music and having a good time and minding their own business - to carry out an attack wasn't something I ever thought about.

This year, 81 people died at two separate music events on two different continents. Both were acts of terrorism. Aside from those killed, a combined total of 1,046 people suffered injuries, some of them critical.

The first attack took place in Manchester, England on May 22 just after pop star Ariana Grande performed to a crowd of over 14,000 at the city's Manchester Arena. The performance had concluded and fans were exiting the venue when a shrapnel-laden homemade explosive was detonated in the foyer; it's a miracle more weren't killed.

With a large LGBT following, many who attended Grande's concert were young gay men, while others included teenagers or college kids. Hotels, Sikh temples and even private residences of local homeowners in the vicinity of the arena served as safe shelters for concertgoers, as the nearby subway station was closed due to safety concerns.

Among the dead, besides the attacker who committed the crime as an act of radical religious beliefs, was Martyn Hett, who had appeared on a British reality series with his boyfriend Russell Hayward. 'We got the news last night that our wonderful, iconic and beautiful Martyn didn't survive,' posted Hayward on social media the day after. 'He left the world exactly how he lived, centre of attention. I'm in a really bad way so please forgive if I don't reply.' The 29 year-old Hett was scheduled to travel the next day, following the show, to the US for a two-month trip.

The youngest victim was 8, the oldest 50. Some were couples in love, some were best friends and some were simply parents just waiting innocently by the exit doors to meet their children after the performance.

Grande cancelled the remaining dates of her 'Dangerous Woman Tour,' which had already made its way through North America before heading to Europe. It included a performance at Key Arena on March 23. With the help of friends, Grande organized a benefit concert in Manchester on June 4 to help raise money for the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund, which aided the victims of the attack and their families. She performed several of her own songs, but also shared the stage with Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, Niall Horan and the Black Eyed Peas, to name a few. In just 12 hours after the concert, the event had raised over $13 million US dollars.

The second attack happened on October 1 in Las Vegas on the final day of the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. A shooter perched on an upper floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino began firing shots at a gathering of 22,000 fans listening to the event's headlining artist Jason Aldean performing below in a makeshift concert venue, known as 'The Lot.' Unlike the Manchester attack, which occurred instantly and at the conclusion of the performance, the Las Vegas incident took place over the course of ten minutes and while the entertainer was still on stage.

Aldean, who interviewed with Seattle Gay News several years ago, and his band members escaped without harm. The same can't be said for 58 people who were killed by rapid gunfire, among them were off-duty police officers, nurses, teachers, small business owners and students. Some had traveled long distance to attend the three-day festival, which features top Nashville talent performing to thousands in Las Vegas annually and has quickly become one of the premiere country music events in the nation.

The exact motive is still unknown; however, it's been confirmed that the attacker, who acted alone, had previously reserved rooms at hotels that overlooked the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago and a similar live music event in Las Vegas called Life Is Beautiful. The youngest victim was 20, the oldest 67. It became the deadliest mass shooting committed by a sole person in US history, surpassing the Orlando attack in 2016 at the Pulse gay nightclub in which 49 innocent people were murdered.

The Manchester and Las Vegas tragedies join the 2015 shooting in Paris, where 130 were killed during an Eagles of Death Metal performance as part of a terrorist act. This brings the total to 211 people in just three years who've died at a live music event as a result of a planned attack. With the exception of the Manchester attacker, included in the 211 killed, these were all innocent people attending a concert who had no idea what was about to happen, and like myself had not even thought something like this would ever take place. They were just listening to music, that's all they were doing.

To the victims in Manchester and Las Vegas, and once again those in Paris two years ago, we say Rest in Peace. And to their families and loved ones, we offer continued thoughts and prayers for healing.

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