4th year since the Las Vegas massacre: “Be there for each other”

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People who are healing and some still struggle gathered on Friday to remember those who died and were injured in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history four years ago on the Strip from Las Vegas.

“I was injured. These physical wounds healed,” said Dee Ann Hyatt, whose daughter was also injured and whose brother died in the shooting on October 1, 2017. “But the scars lasting on our family remain. “

Hyatt spoke to several hundred people during a sunrise ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in Las Vegas.

In this October 1, 2019 file photo, people pray outside a makeshift memorial to victims of the Las Vegas shooting, on the anniversary of the mass shooting two years earlier. Those who died will be remembered on Friday, October 1, 2021, on the fourth anniversary of the Las Vegas massacre which became the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
(AP Photo / John Locher)

She remembered her slain brother, Kurt von Tillow, a northern California trucker, in front of a screen in an open-air amphitheater that displayed photos of the dead. Fifty-eight people were killed that night, and two more died later. More than 850 were injured.

“We continue to experience the impact of everything that happened that night, four years later,” said Hyatt. “People thrive and struggle to live with physical and mental pain, and our lives are changed forever.”

The morning memorial featured a song, “Four Years After,” sung by Matt Sky, composed for the anniversary by Mark R. Johnson and released with multiple Grammy Award winner Alan Parsons.

The event was the first of several scheduled for Friday in Las Vegas and elsewhere, including a livestream in Ventura County, Calif. Hosted by a support group called “So Cal Route 91 Heals.” The group also planned an afternoon ceremony in a park in Thousand Oaks.

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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.

The names of the dead will be read from 10:05 p.m., the shooting start time, at a community healing garden in downtown Las Vegas.

Pereira is also chair of a Clark County committee that is developing plans for a permanent memorial. She said next year’s fifth anniversary could feature a dedication of the memorial in a corner of the old concert hall across Las Vegas Boulevard from the Mandalay Bay complex. It was there that the shooter spent several days gathering an arsenal of assault rifles before smashing the windows of his suite on the 32nd floor and unleashing carnage.

Jill Winter of Nashville, Tennessee, remembers the nearly 10-minute barrage of quick shots in the outdoor concert crowd.

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Like many around her, Winter 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, “Make him stop! Make him stop!”

Winter, now 49, advises others she calls “the Router family” who experienced the deadly night of the Route 91 harvest festival. “Router” sounds better than “survivor,” she said. -she explains.

“There is a lot of healing going on,” she said in a telephone interview this week. “There are 22,000 of us there. That 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. “

The shooter, Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old retired postal worker, accountant and real estate investor who became 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.

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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 for the memorial, just off the Strip, at a location near a church where people have sought refuge and medical help during shooting.

The company and its insurers are nearing completion of paying $ 800 million to more than 4,000 claimants in a 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.”

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Pereira said this week that she felt a softening of emotions around the anniversary.

“Where the community is is different. Maybe it’s because we’ve just come out of this (coronavirus) pandemic and we’re starting to feel a steady rhythm again,” Pereira said.

“We still remember, we still respect, we still honor. But it’s not raw like it used to be and shocking. It’s just more upbeat and peaceful.”

It was the first year since filming that Winter was not in Las Vegas to mark the anniversary. She said she would meet with other “Routers” on Friday at a friend’s restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee.

“It’s always touching. But it’s also very heartwarming,” she said. “The fact that we have come together and not let the evil win is so amazing.”

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Hyatt, speaking at the memorial, said four years had taught him that some things could not 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, loving and caring for everyone you meet because you don’t know what they are going through. . “


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