Hugs, prayers and tears mark Oct. 1 shooting anniversary in Las Vegas

How do you remember something no one is likely to ever forget?

The first ceremony began just after dawn Monday, when 58 doves carried the victims’ names into the sky.

The last of them ended well after dark, as the 58 names were recited at the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden downtown and hundreds of people joined hands along the Strip to circle the Route 91 Harvest festival grounds with a chain of humanity.

In between, there were vigils, dedications, donation drives and even a wedding as the community turned out in force to mark the first anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting.

Residents shared hugs, somber remembrances and smiles as “Vegas Strong” signs throughout the city served as a reminder of the valley’s resolve.

Follow the Review Journal Coverage of Oct. 1 Anniversary
Follow the Review Journal Coverage of Oct. 1 Anniversary

Survivors from out of town returned to Las Vegas by the thousands to share the day with the only other people who truly understand what they went through. It was a reunion for graduates of the unimaginable.

“I came back because it’s time to heal,” said Beverly King of Malone, New York, who escaped with her niece — uninjured but forever changed — when the shots rang out at the festival. “I needed to come back here to honor those people who didn’t make it home, those folks who lost more than I did.”

Jessica Mount traveled from San Dimas, California, with her husband, Brian, and their two young children to spend the anniversary in Las Vegas.

She still carries a bullet fragment in her foot from the shooting.

“It does help me a lot, because a lot of people don’t know about it,” Mount said as she toured the Route 91 exhibit at the Clark County Museum. “Coming here and seeing this matters so much to me.”

The day began with a sunrise remembrance at the Clark County Government Center, where Gov. Brian Sandoval, Sheriff Joe Lombardo and others spoke in memory of those killed in the attack.

“There are two choices, to give up or to lift others up,” Lombardo said. “We chose the latter.”

The event ended with 58 seconds of silence and the release of the 58 doves.

A few hours later, more than 200 people gathered for an emotional prayer vigil on the steps of Las Vegas City Hall.

Elsewhere, people sought to mark the day with acts of good.

University Medical Center and the blood services company Vitalant teamed up for an all-day blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center, while several players from the Golden Knights presented medals of valor to 21 members of the Community Ambulance medical team who were at the festival when the shooting started.

At the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, city resident Matt Covert brought his daughters Lily, 9, and Audrey, 6, to see the memorial that recently returned to the site. The two girls wore “Vegas Strong” T-shirts made by a friend of their mom’s who survived the concert last year.

The three sat quietly on artificial turf, taking in the heart-shaped tributes decorated with photos of the victims.

“I was hesitant to bring them down to it. I don’t really know how to explain it to them,” the girls’ father said. “I wasn’t there, so I kind of feel like I shouldn’t be here. But it just feels right to come down here, pay our respects.”

Later, under a fiery sunset that seemed tailor-made for the occasion, a crowd of hundreds gathered to dedicate a new memorial wall to the victims at the healing garden downtown.

Then at 10:05 p.m., one year to the minute after the first shots rang out, the names of the fallen were read aloud, one by one.

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Blake Apgar, Jessie Bekker, Natalie Bruzda, Rachel Crosby, Michael Scott Davidson, Meghin Delaney, Bill Dentzer, Jeff German, Wade Tyler Millward and John Przybys contributed to this report.

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