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Chosen memorial design highlights 58, not 60, victims of Las Vegas shooting

Updated July 29, 2023 - 12:46 pm

The committee tasked with recommending a memorial for the Las Vegas mass shooting unveiled its choice Wednesday.

Like other proposals, the chosen design’s core emphasizes 58 of the victims, rather than all 60 who have died as a result of their gunshot wounds.

The seven-member committee had scored five designs independently as a “blind jury,” and they learned the identities of the two finalists — the chosen proposal and an alternative — in real time Wednesday morning.

JCJ Architecture’s “Forever One” design scored the highest.

The concept includes an “Angel Wall” and 58 beams, or candles, to commemorate victims who died in the immediate hours following the Oct. 1, 2017, shooting at a country music festival — the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.

About 22,000 attendees were present at the Route 91 Harvest music festival when a gunman opened fire from 32 floors above. Hundreds survived gunshot wounds.

A “Tower of Light” will stand 58 feet tall, with the diameter of a “Remembrance Ring” also measuring 58 feet, according to renderings. Elements within the memorial will hold 58-inch separations.

The firm did not respond to an email seeking comment. Neither did Gov. Joe Lombardo, who was then the Clark County sheriff who oversaw the response.

Committee Chair Tennille Pereira told reporters after the meeting that the two additional victims, who died in 2019 and 2020, also will be honored within the memorial. The two women are included in the Metropolitan Police Department’s official count.

Pereira said the committee did not specifically instruct the architecture firms to implement the No. 58, but that the number came up repeatedly in public feedback.

The number “became embedded as a symbol,” she said. “That is not to say that the importance of honoring all those impacted and acknowledging their stories and experiences was not important as well,” she added.

She acknowledged that not everyone would be satisfied with the choice.

“My goal was to give everyone a voice, and I hope that the community can feel that and at the end of the day, find peace and healing,” Pereira said.

‘Work in progress’

In a statement, a county spokesperson wrote that the chosen design is in a conceptual stage and that its development is a “work in progress as it is designed and built.”

“Clark County’s intent throughout this effort has been and continues to be to create a memorial that honors all who were affected by the tragedy, including the 58 who died in the immediate aftermath, all those who were injured, including the two who unfortunately passed months later, and all those who were affected in other ways,” the statement continued. “Exactly how that will be done will continue to be determined as the project is finalized.”

Committee member Mynda Smith noted that her sister, Neysa Tonks, who died in the shooting, would have celebrated a birthday Thursday.

“To be here and to be able to know this space will be created where I can go and honor her … I have no doubt that whatever design is going to be chosen, that it will become a beautiful space for the families, for the survivors and, for beyond that, I have the utmost faith that this process is going to provide what we need.”

Smith abstained from voting to approve the scoring results.

Committee member Karessa Royce, who was shot on Oct. 1, teared up as she spoke.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank the survivor community for how involved you were when I woke up in the hospital in 2017, the day after the shooting,” she said. “I never could have imagined the journey we’d be on together and with all of you. I know that there’s 22,000 perspectives, not just mine.”

OLIN + Andy Scott’s memorial design, the alternative concept, included 15 large statues of horses surrounded by “drought-tolerant” plants. The names of the victims would be inscribed on plaques on the ground.

Clark County formed the committee to find a permanent memorial site separate from the Community Healing Garden in downtown Las Vegas, which was created immediately after the shooting.

‘The most important thing’

Over the past 18 months, the committee sought input from the public through interactions such as surveys and meetings.

“That has been — at least speaking for myself, personally — the most important thing I felt that we could do here, is to give you a voice in this process, and to hear what you had to say and to put it into action,” Pereira said at the meeting.

The memorial will rest on 2 acres of land near the shooting site, near Reno Avenue and Giles Street.

A plaque was recently cemented onto a sidewalk overlooking the Las Vegas shooting site commemorating Joaquin Oliver — a student killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida a few months after the Oct. 1 massacre.

Samuel Schwartz, who describes himself as Oliver’s cousin, posted a video on social media showing the small memorial being laid down.

“The Las Vegas massacre is the deadliest mass shooting on American soil,” he wrote. “But America has forgotten about what happened here in favor of gambling and a good time.”

Clark County responded to his video, noting that a memorial was on the way.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.

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