LAS VEGAS - Jessica Lugo grew up in this town of excess and escape, and never wanted to leave. Today, as an employee of Caesars Palace, she’s in the business of fun.
“There’s so much happiness that comes to town,” she said as she blinked away tears after paying her respects to Sunday’s victims at an impromptu memorial site set up in their honor. For something like this to happen is unfair. We’re going to be mourning this forever.”
In the days since nearly 60 people were shot to death at a country music festival here, we’re learning more about the victims but not a lot about the gunman.
Stephen Paddock was a 64-year-old retiree who lived in a quiet, comfortable community in Mesquite, Nev. He purchased his weapons legally, had no health or money problems and had no ties to extremist groups, authorities, gun shop owners and his confounded brother have told media outlets in recent days.
His father, though, was a notorious criminal once described as “a psychopath” by law enforcement.
Paddock’s rampage has left this neon-lit vacationers’ paradise in a fog.
“Yesterday, we were just zombies,” said Steve Titzer of Evansville, Ind., who had attended the Sunday night concert with his wife Paula. “Of course we didn’t sleep.”
He lit a candle at the memorial site, set up in front of the famed Bellagio, then recounted their harrowing ordeal: “We saw a lot of blood. We saw bodies. They weren’t moving.”
Once he and Paula realized what was happening, they ran against the crowd, hoping not to be stampeded. Someone helped them hop a fence, leaving him with scrapes on his stomach. At one point they encountered a woman having an emotional cell phone conversation with her husband. Steve gently asked if he could take the phone for a minute.
“I said, ‘Mister, my name is Steve. I’m here with your wife. Man-to-man, I’m going to make sure she gets back to her hotel.’”
She did. Hundreds of victims were wounded and 59 were killed. Grieving friends and family members have been leaving heartbreaking messages at the memorial site.
“You were the best thing in my life,” a bereft widower wrote.
“I promise I’ll make you proud,” wrote a woman whose mother was killed.
“I’ll take care of her,” someone wrote to her best friend’s mother.
Stacey Disney has been on edge since Sunday, when a friend’s daughter was shot twice. She’s still in the hospital.
“I’m just numb,” she said. She has lived in Las Vegas for years, and hopes the actions of a deranged shooter don’t ruin her adopted hometown’s spirit.
“I hope it doesn’t scare people away, because then he wins,” she said. She’s begun to see the small changes the shooting is making in her own life, though. Her 8-year-old wants to be Jason, the hockey mask wearing horror-movie maniac, for Halloween. She’s going to try to persuade him to choose a different costume.
“Why do you want to glorify someone who kills people?”