LAS VEGAS (AP) – Jill Winter recalls the barrage of rapid-fire gunfire raining down on a country music concert crowd on the Las Vegas Strip in what has become the deadliest mass shooting in the world modern history of the United States four years ago.
Like many around her, she initially thought it was fireworks. Then people fell dead and injured. Winter went into hiding until the SWAT cops arrived and told him to run. She remembers shouting, “Get him arrested!” Make him stop!
Winter, 49, was living in San Diego at the time. She now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and advises others she calls “the Router family” who lived the deadly night when a gunman perched in a hotel killed 58 people during the Harvest Festival of the Route 91. “Router” sounds better than “survivor,” Winter explained. The later deaths of at least two other people brought the unofficial death toll to 60.
“There’s a lot of healing going on,” Winter said this week. “There are a lot of people still struggling. We are 22,000 to be there. It doesn’t even include the other people who were affected… the first responders, the hospital workers, the average citizens driving the Strip. All these people and all these different stories.
This is the first year since filming that Winter will not be in Las Vegas to mark the anniversary at landmarks like a sunrise ceremony at the Clark County Government Center and a 10:05 p.m. reading at a community healing garden in downtown Las Vegas of the names of those killed in the October 1, 2017 massacre.
The 7 a.m. ceremony is expected to feature comments from elected officials and Dee Ann Hyatt, whose brother Kurt von Tillow died in the shooting. Singer Matt Sky, who worked with Adam Levine on NBC’s “The Voice”, will perform “Four Years After,” a song composed for the birthday by Mark R. Johnson and dated multiple Grammy Award winner Alan Parsons.
In Southern California, “So Cal Route 91 heals” will host a sunrise remembrance live broadcast and afternoon ceremony at Conejo Creek Park in Thousand Oaks.
Tennille Pereira, director of the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center, a Las Vegas program set up to support those affected by the shooting, noted that about 60% of tickets sold for the fateful concert were purchased by California residents.
Next year’s fifth anniversary could feature the unveiling of a new memorial, Pereira said, at a corner of the old concert hall across Las Vegas Boulevard from the Mandalay Bay complex, where the shooter spent several days gathering an arsenal of assault rifles before smashing through the windows of his suite on the 32nd floor and unleashing carnage.
The shooter, Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old retired postal worker, accountant and real estate investor who had become a high-stakes casino video poker player, committed suicide before police reached him. Local and federal investigators concluded he meticulously planned the attack and appeared to seek notoriety, but said they could not identify a clear motive.
Authorities, including the police, elected officials and government officials and those involved in the resilience center now refuse to use his name.
MGM Resorts International, owner of the hotel and concert hall, donates 2 acres (0.8 hectares) for the memorial, just off the Strip, at a location near a church where people gathered taken cover during the shooting.
“October 1 was a tragedy that changed our community forever, and we continue to mourn and support those affected by this senseless act of violence,” the company said in a statement.
MGM Resorts and its insurers are nearing completion of paying $ 800 million to more than 4,000 claimants in an out-of-court settlement reached a year ago that has avoided negligence lawsuits in several states. The company has not admitted any responsibility.
“It’s good for the community and the victims to have the case resolved,” Robert Eglet, a Las Vegas lawyer who spent a year organizing the settlement said Thursday. “And it was the right thing to do for MGM.”
Pereira is also chair of a Clark County committee that is developing plans for the permanent memorial. She said this week that she had felt a softening of emotions around the anniversary.
“Four years. This year the marker looks different to me,” she said. “Where people are at in their healing is different. Where the community is different. Maybe that’s because we have just come out of this pandemic (of coronavirus) and that we are starting to feel a regular rhythm again. ”
“It’s a little softer,” Pereira said. “We’re not that emotional. We still remember, we still respect, we still honor. But it’s not as raw as it used to be, and shocking. It’s just more hopeful and more peaceful.
Winter said she plans to meet with other “Routers” on Friday at a friend’s restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee.
“It’s always moving. But it’s also very heartwarming, ”she said. “The fact that we have come together and not let the evil win is so amazing.”
“There are so many people who think we should be done with this,” she added. “It’s not something you never get over. It changed us forever.