Some of the contrasts exposed last weekend by the massacre in Las Vegas are just too brutal.
As the gunman let loose his fusillade of death on a crowd of 22,000 attending a country music festival, John Joseph Phippen shielded young girls with his body, his son, who was also there, told a Los Angeles NBC station.
Phippen, a Massapequa native and father of six who lived in Santa Clarita, California, was shot in the back, becoming one of the 58 who were slain last Sunday.
“He and my nephew are my heroes; OK, they’re just my heroes,” said an older sister of Phippen, Debra Phippen White “He gave his life for somebody he didn’t even know,” his son, Travis Phippen, 24, a paramedic, told the station.
The son seems to have inherited his father’s courage; he was applying makeshift tourniquets when his father was struck down by the gunman shooting from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay. Travis was hit in the arm when he came to his father’s aid.
Published reports describe the shooter — Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada — as arrogant and unsociable; Phippen, 56, embraced friendship and community.
“He always had a smile on his face,” said White, of Katy, Texas. “He had some of the same friends he had when he was 6 years old, that’s how far back people loved him,” she said.
“My brother was an amazing, amazing man; he was everybody’s friend, he was like that from the moment he was a child until his passing.”
And her brother thrived without combat, she said.
“You know how little boys always have fistfights and whatnot? I never saw him fight anybody or heard about him having a fight with anybody,” his sister said.
Loyalty seems to run deep with these members of the Phippen family, who never relinquished their New York heritage.
“No, no, no, no, once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker,” White said.
Her brother noted his Long Island roots on the Facebook page for his home improvement company, JP Specialties.
Phippen’s death has sundered not just his family, but the southern California town he called home.
“Everybody that met him adored him,” his sister said.
One of Phippen’s neighbors hopes that a GoFundMe page will help his children with expenses. Their mother died three years ago and the youngest is just 14 years old, it says.
“If you didn’t know John you surely missed out. He had a heart that was larger than life and a personality to match,” the page says.