More than 1,000 bullets were fired. At least 800 people were wounded. Sixty beautiful lives were lost. Countless lives were changed forever.
Last month marked five years since the Las Vegas shooting in 2017. It was the deadliest mass shooting by an individual in United States history and the nation is still recovering from it. Many people from Riverside County lost their loved ones. A team of us from the Division of Victim Services went to Las Vegas a week after the shooting and we had no idea what to expect. What we did know was that we wanted to do whatever was at our fingertips to help them through the immediate process.
We listened to so many stories from victims and their families and this was part of their healing process, as they just needed to tell someone or be heard. We could see the pain, shock, and numbness in so many people coming through the Family Assistance Center (FAC) and we wanted to help them in any way possible. Within a week of being in Las Vegas, the FAC had helped more than 3,000 victims and their families. Having so many professionals from all over the United States there working toward the same goal was uplifting for everyone.
Five years later, on October 1st, 2022, we went back to Las Vegas to assist with the remembrance events held by the FAC. They held events like a 5k marathon, visits to the MGM grounds where the shooting had occurred, visits to the Healing Garden, a Sunrise Remembrance, and a musical festival. One of the benefits of remembrance events is being with a group of like-minded individuals. Even if you don’t know everyone, you still form a sense of community, a sense of belonging and being understood without needing to explain the nuances of the grief, fear, or anger some people may experience.
Returning to see families still working through their healing process was an amazing experience, because it gave us hope that even though there is so much more to be done, it can and will happen for these victims. Our role was to support; to walk amongst the crowd and smile, ask if they were ok, offer water, and accompany those who were there alone. It was an honor to be in that space with the victims and their families as they went back to reclaim a piece of their soul.
People in the grieving process are prone to experience many emotions, which are often difficult to manage. Some of the more common feelings are anger, sadness, denial, and numbness. However, there is no framework that dictates what it should look like when a person has lost someone dear to them. Maybe you do not think you are where you’re supposed to be in the “stages of grief.” We understand that, but it is a myth. There is a science to what you are feeling and it often takes a care professional to recognize which services will help you grieve. What may not seem normal to one person may be exactly what another needs to heal. Sometimes that means the process takes longer and that is okay.
We responded as quickly as we could after it happened and have helped as many people as possible since then, but it never feels like enough. We know there are still people out there who are hurting and we want them to know they are not alone. There are services we can connect you with and we want to help, so please reach out to us at the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. We are the Division of Victim Services and we believe there is hope. We believe there is healing.
Karina Meza-Vazquez (left) Patty Cardenas (right)