“Vegas Strong” has become a catchphrase of resiliency and unity since the shooting. But is the strength of being Vegas Strong measurable?
It is in fact more than just something we say but something clinical we feel?
UNLV Professor Stephen Benning is working to find the answer.
Oct. 2, 2017, the tragedy of the night before was still raw, still being processed. Everyone and everywhere seemed to hurt. Stephen Benning wasn’t sure what to do.
The UNLV professor’s field is psychology. It was there — in research — he felt a difference could be made.
Just weeks after 1 October, Professor Benning typed up a questionnaire.
“This is a way to understand how people reacted to the stress of the 1 October shooting,” he said. “Who they were with. How they felt, what’s missing from what they understand…”
A study to gauge the immediate psychological affects the tragedy.
“We didn’t want people to feel like they had to tell us anything,” he said.
Today, a little more than 100 people are taking part in the study. Thirty five were at the Route 91 festival.
One year after the shooting, Professor Benning says the results are intriguing. He created a series of charts, animating the levels of trauma. The dotted line shows normal stress after a traumatic event. In dark blue, you see trauma felt by members of the community. In red, those who survived the shooting. Over time, you see how the levels change. Six months afterwards, the community returns to relative normalcy. For survivors.
“Over half of the people at the festival would qualify for a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress,” he said.
Despite the trauma, there is one major theme Professor Benning has found unique to Las Vegas.
“The thing that I think our study is really demonstrating here is that people are resilient.”
Benning says the study actually shows a spike in gratitude and in strength.
“There was a unity to their experiences in a way that I think they wouldn’t have expected,” he said. “We are a community. We are able to come together and build ourselves up after a grievous wound.”
It’s far from clinical, though the questions are based on established science.
But it is an indicator of how Las Vegas absorbed the tragedy, how it moved on and how other cities might be able to do the same.
“There was this strong sense of community, of caring, of pulling together that I don’t think people expected to show. I believe we showed what Vegas Strong really means.”
The study is not over.
Professor Benning and his team will continue to measure the affects of the shooting on survivors and the community and publish a final report in the future.