Route 91 Harvest is a country music festival in Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy of Route 91)

By Amber Ainsworth, Staff Writer 

On Sunday night, a gunman opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas. At the time of publication, there were 59 casualties and more than 500 people injured.

There were about 22,000 people in attendance at the Route 91 Harvest, a country music festival, when a man began shooting during Jason Aldean’s set.

It is now the worst mass shooting in modern American history.

It is horrific.

Music, concerts and festivals bring people together. A shooting at such a place wedges a divide between music and the joy it should bring.

I am a music photographer, and I’ve spent a large chunk of time at concerts and festivals. The Route 91 shooting unnerves me to the core.

This past summer, I traveled abroad to cover music festivals shortly after an attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. While I attended the shows despite increased fears worldwide and worried parents, there was always a “what if?” in my mind.

What if something were to happen? What if there was an attack? What would we do?

As time passed and what happened faded from immediate memory, those thoughts weren’t so prominent. My comfort, however, has never been the same in those atmospheres.

Concerts are places for people to come together, have a good time, forget life for a while, get lost in music. When concerts are attacked, that happy, free atmosphere fades

This week’s mass shooting brings those feelings after Manchester back, back even stronger because it’s closer to home.

The shooting not only created fear and panic; it serves as a tragic reminder of what could happen at any moment.

Attacks at music events raise questions.

Is it still safe to attend concerts and festivals? Is security strong enough to prevent similar tragedies? Are big venues and large crowds a good place to be in the wake of these devastations?

Should I still go to concerts?

It’s easy to say no, to never attend a concert again or never go to gathering of people out of fear. And it’s completely understandable.

But music is stronger than that. The community that stems from music is far too large and far too strong to be broken apart by cowards who threaten the safety and sanity of others.

When something such as the Vegas shooting or the Manchester bombing happens, it shakes that community. It bashes that community. It takes away a feeling of sanctuary that concerts have for many.

We cannot let that happen.

Concerts and music festivals are an escape for so many people. Right now, a concert honestly is not high on my list of places I would like to be any time soon. It’s a sad, painful thing to say because for years, shows are where I have felt 100 percent comfortable and at peace.

Despite that, I’ll still go to shows. I’ll support my favorite artists. I’ll sing at the top of my lungs with the strangers around me.

Those “what ifs?” will be on my mind; it’s nearly impossible for them to not be.

The music community has been hit hard. My heart aches, and though I have no direct connections to the festival in Vegas, I’ve been nothing short of a mess since I first heard the news of the shooting.

It’s something I’ve been trying to wrap my head around for hours. Like any senseless act of violence, I don’t understand it and probably never will.

What I do know is that we, both the music community and the nation as a whole, need to rise above this. It’s easy to live in fear, to accept what happened as part of reality and plan life accordingly.

We will not let that happen.

In a world where there is so much chaos, violence and hate, music provides an escape. That getaway has been shaken severely, but we will rise above it.

We can’t let evil win.