It started with a few words with Nancy Pelosi.
It will end with healing gardens in cities across the nation. At least, that’s Jay Pleggenkuhle’s plan.
In the aftermath of the Route 91 Harvest festival massacre, the House speaker visited the Las Vegas Healing Garden to honor the memory of Stacee Etcheber, a 50-year-old hairstylist from Novato, California, who lived in Pelosi’s congressional district.
This is part of an ongoing series observing the two-year anniversary of the Oct. 1, 2017, shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. See all of our coverage here.
She found her picture and placed flowers at the remembrance wall.
While there, Pelosi also talked to garden co-creator Pleggenkuhle.
“She was really curious as to how this happened,” he says. “It was done with all these hundreds and hundreds of people in three days, and she was so curious as to how that happened without fighting and arguments and politics and everything. When she was leaving, she turned around and asked if we would come to Washington, D.C., and said, ‘I would love to introduce you to Congress, because we struggle to get anything done. And we’d like to know how.’ ”
Pleggenkuhle chuckles at the memory, but soon he had other ideas.
“I got to thinking, ‘Maybe instead of going there for that purpose, wouldn’t it be amazing to go there and do a garden?’ ” he says.
“I want to build a national healing garden,” he elaborates, “because it’s obvious that we’re all trying to get over something or through something, whether it’s that we lost someone in a shooting or maybe Hurricane Katrina or we were picked on growing up because we were different in elementary school. We all have something to get through, right?”
So Pleggenkuhle has started a nonprofit, Healing Gardens for America, and says he’s already garnered interest from Microsoft about potentially working with the organization.
Though the first of these gardens outside of Las Vegas would probably be in Washington, D.C., the idea is to have them in multiple cities, to grow like seeds scattered to the wind.
“I just want it to go where people are hurting and need a little help,” Pleggenkuhle says, “where they need the world to come together and sort of collectively give them a big hug.”