‘The physical wounds have healed. But lasting marks remain for our family.
LAS VEGAS – People who are recovering and some are still struggling gathered to remember those who died and were injured four years ago during the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Las Vegas Bandage.
“I was injured. Those bodily wounds have healed,” said D N Hayat, whose daughter was also injured and whose brother died in the shooting on October 1, 2017. “But lasting marks remain for our family.”
Hyatt spoke to several hundred people during a sunrise ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in Las Vegas.
He remembered his slain brother, Kurt von Tilo, a trucker from Northern California, in front of a screen in an outdoor amphitheater that displayed photographs of the dead. Sixty-eight people were killed that night, and two others were killed later. More than 850 were injured.
“We continue to live out the effects of what happened that night, four years later,” Hyatt said. “People thrive and people struggle to live with physical and mental suffering, and our lives are changed forever.”
The Morning Memorial featured a song, “Four Years After”, sung by Matt Skye, composed for the anniversary by Mark R. Johnson and released with multi-Grammy Award winner Alan Parsons.
The event was the first of several scheduled Fridays in Las Vegas and elsewhere, including a livestream for California’s Ventura County, hosted by a support group called “So Cal Route 91 Heels”. The group also planned an afternoon ceremony at a park in Thousand Oaks.
Tenil Pereira, director of the Vegas Strong Resilience Center, a Las Vegas event set up to support those affected by the shooting, said about 60% of tickets sold for the unfortunate concert were purchased by California residents.
The names of the dead will be read out at 10:05 p.m., at the time the shooting began, at the city’s Las Vegas Community Healing Garden.
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Pereira is also the chair of the Clark County Committee that developed the plan for a permanent memorial. He said next year’s fifth anniversary could see the dedication of the memorial in a corner of the former concert hall across from the Mandalay Bay resort to Las Vegas Boulevard. It was here that the shooter spent several days gathering an arsenal of assault-style rifles before breaking open the windows of his 32nd-floor suite and massacre.
Jill Winters of Nashville, Tennessee, recalls a nearly 10-minute barrage of rapid-fire gunshots into the open-air concert crowd.
Like many people around him, Winter first thought it was fireworks. Then people fell and got injured. Winter hid until police SWAT officers arrived and asked him to run. She remembers yelling, “Stop him! Stop him!”
Winters, now 49, offers advice to others she calls the “Router family” who experienced a fatal night at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. “Router” sounds better than “Survivor,” she explained.
“There’s a lot of healing going on,” she said in a telephone interview this week. “There were 22,000 of us there. That doesn’t even include the others who were affected … the first responders, the hospital staff, the average citizen who was driving down the Strip. All those people and all those different- different stories.”
The gunman, Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old retired Postal Service worker, accountant and real estate investor who became a high-stakes casino video poker player, killed himself before police arrived. Local and federal investigators concluded that he carefully planned the attack and appeared to be on the lookout for notoriety, but said they could not identify a clear motive.
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Officials including the police, elected and government officials and those associated with the Resilience Center have now refused to use his name.
MGM Resorts International, the owner of the hotel and concert venue, is donating 2 acres (0.8 ha) for the memorial – a location near a church where people sought refuge and medical aid during the shooting.
The company and its insurers ended up paying $800 million to more than 4,000 claimants nearly a year ago in an out-of-court settlement that avoided a trial of negligence in several states. The company did not accept any liability.
“It’s good for the community and the victims that the case is resolved,” Las Vegas attorney Robert Eglett, who spent a year arranging the settlement, said Thursday. “And it was the right thing for MGM to do.”
Pereira said this week that he felt a softening of emotions around the anniversary.
“That’s where the community is different. Maybe it’s because we’ve just come out of this (coronavirus) pandemic and we’re starting to feel a regular pace again,” Pereira said.
“We still remember, we still respect, we still respect. But it wasn’t like raw, and unsettling. It just felt more optimistic and peaceful.”
This was the first year since the shooting that Winter was not in Las Vegas to celebrate the anniversary. She said she would gather with other “routers” on Friday at a friend’s restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee.
“It’s always emotional. But it’s also really heartwarming,” she said. “The fact that we’ve come together and don’t let evil win is astonishing.”
Hyatt, speaking at the memorial, said that four years have taught him that some things cannot be fixed.
“All you can do is be there for each other,” she said. “Listen, cry, hug, love and support each other. You just need to be patient and loving and caring for everyone you meet, because you don’t know what they’re doing.”