4th year since Las Vegas massacre stirs emotions, ceremonies

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Jill Winter recalls the barrage of rapid fire that fell on a crowd of country music concerts on the Las Vegas Strip during what became the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history four years ago. years.

Like many around him, he thought at first they were fireworks. Then the people fell dead and wounded. Winter ducked for cover until SWAT police officers arrived and told him to run. You remember yelling, “Make it stop! Make it stop! “

Winter, 49, was living in San Diego at the time. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and advises other people he calls “the Router family” who lived through the deadly night when a gunman perched in a hotel killed 58 people at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. “Router” sounds better than “survivor,” Winter explained. The subsequent deaths of at least two others have brought the unofficial death toll to 60.

“There is a lot of healing going on,” Winter said this week. “There are a lot of people who are still fighting. There are 22,000 of us who were there. That doesn’t even include other people who were affected … first responders, hospital employees, average citizens driving down the Strip. All those people and all those different stories. “

This is the first year since filming that Winter will not be in Las Vegas to commemorate the anniversary in memorials as a sunrise ceremony at the Clark County Government Center and a reading at 10:05 p.m. 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 will feature comments from elected officials and Dee Ann Hyatt, whose brother Kurt von Tillow was killed in the shooting. Singer Matt Sky, who worked with Adam Levine on NBC’s “The Voice,” will sing “Four Years After,” a song composed for the anniversary by Mark R. Johnson and released with multi-Grammy Award winner Alan Parsons.

In southern California “So Cal Route 91 is cured” will host a sunrise remembrance live stream and afternoon ceremony at Conejo Creek Park in Thousand Oaks.

Tennille Pereira, director of the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center, a Las Vegas program created 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 may include the dedication of a new memorial, Pereira said, in a corner of the old concert hall on Las Vegas Boulevard from the Mandalay Bay resort, where the shooter spent several days gathering an arsenal of assault rifles. before breaking. through the windows of his 32nd floor suite and unleashing carnage.

The gunman, Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old retired postal service worker, accountant and real estate investor who had become a high-stakes video poker player, committed suicide before police caught up with him. Local and federal investigators concluded that he meticulously planned the attack and appeared to seek notoriety, but said they could not identify a clear motive.

Authorities, including police, elected and government officials, and people involved with the resilience center, are now refusing to use its name.

MGM Resorts International, which owns the hotel and the concert hall, is donating 2 acres (0.8 hectares) for the memorial, just off the Strip, at a location near a church where people took cover during the shooting.

“October 1 was a tragedy that forever changed our community, and we continue to cry and support those affected by this senseless act of violence,” the company said in a statement.

MGM Resorts and its insurers have nearly finished paying $ 800 million to more than 4,000 plaintiffs in an out-of-court settlement reached a year ago that avoided malpractice lawsuits in multiple states. The company did not acknowledge any responsibility.

“It is good for the community and the victims that the case is resolved,” said Robert Eglet, a Las Vegas attorney who spent a year fixing the settlement. “And it was the right thing for MGM to do.”

Pereira is also the chair of a Clark County committee developing plans for the permanent monument. He said this week that he felt a softening of emotions surrounding the anniversary.

“Four years. This year the scoreboard seems different to me,” he said. “The place where people are in their healing is different. Where the community is different. Maybe it’s because we just came out of this (coronavirus) pandemic and we are beginning to feel a regular rhythm again. “

“It’s a little softer,” Pereira said. “We are not that emotional. We still remember, we still respect, we still honor. But it’s not raw as it was, and jarring. It just feels more hopeful and peaceful. “

Winter said he planned to meet other “routers” Friday at a friend’s restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee.

“It is always emotional. But it is also very comforting, ”he said. “The fact that we came together and didn’t let evil win is so amazing.”

“There are so many people who think we should get over it.” “This is not something you can overcome. It has changed us forever. “

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