Las Vegas tragedy sent seismic reverberations through Southern California, tooBy John L. Smith, CDC Gaming ReportsOctober 24, 2017 at 11:04 pmI experienced much of the aftermath of the nightmare of 1 October at a distance. A family medical issue sent me to Southern California just a few hours after the horrific event.Driving south on Interstate 15 while it seemed like the world was heading toward Las Vegas was a surreal experience I’ll never forget.It was in Southern California that I watched the news reports and press conferences pour forth, there the name of the killer and those of his 58 victims become known, there that the toll of the wounded climbed above 500.It was there I felt the shockwave roll through Southern Californians who have long considered Las Vegas their go-to place to play and vacation. Los Angeles area media not only applied blanket coverage to an event unfolding in its own backyard, but as an accurate picture began to emerge from the scene it became clearer that many Californians had been killed and injured in the mindless assault on the Highway 91 Harvest Festival.As the losses mounted, California newspapers great and small reported on the staggering toll and the close relationship of so many of the victims to Los Angeles-area communities such as Redondo Beach, Garden Grove, Thousand Oaks, and Simi Valley. Television stations with teams on the ground in Las Vegas and in neighborhoods throughout the region captured the unfolding human heartache. By the time the last bell tolled, it became known that 34 of the 58 killed were from California and most of those from the Los Angeles area.Those who appreciate Las Vegas history know that its success is inextricably linked to the Southern California market. Although it’s now true that the Strip bursts with international visitors arriving from all points of the globe, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reports that 27 percent of our 42.9 million annual visitors reside in Southern California. An average of more than 45,000 cars a day cross the Nevada-California line. That represents a huge piece of the economic pie.But, of course, it’s much more than a matter of dollars and visitor volume. It also reflects a lot of affinity for Las Vegas. The tragedy pierced the hearts and psyches of a lot of Southern California families. It’s no wonder we so often seem like a SoCal suburb.Las Vegas owes California visitors and every tourist the safest experience possible, and if there’s anything law enforcement authorities and business executives can take away from this nightmare it’s the reminder that the day has changed. In a dangerous world, and in a nation awash in weapons, the time to improve training and increase security is now.One of the secrets to the success of Las Vegas is the feeling if freedom it conveys to visitors. Being able to call a timeout in a life filled with stress is part of the crazy place’s magic.How authorities balance the need to improve security with the desire to preserve that sense of personal freedom will surely be one of the biggest challenges Las Vegas faces in the coming years.There’s nothing like seeing the glittering line of cars as it crosses the state line at Primm and heads toward Las Vegas on Friday night. At a distance it can look like a El Dorado on the interstate, or a river of diamonds and gold.In reality, they’re just people traveling to Las Vegas for a good, safe time.John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas journalist and author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.