Sorrow and resolve as Las Vegas mourns rampage victims

7:54 p.m Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017 Local
Steve Titzer lights a candle in memory of the Las Vegas shooting victims. He and his wife were about 15 feet from the stage when the rampage began, and escaped by running against the crowd. Photo: Jennifer Brett, jbrett@ajc.com

LAS VEGAS - In the days since nearly 60 people were shot to death at a country music festival here, we’re learning more about the victims than what could possibly have motivated the attack on them.

Lisa Patterson was a mom of three from southern California, where she could often be found at Palos Verdes Girls Softball League field. Neysa Tonks, also a mother of three, worked for a technology company in Las Vegas. Angie Gomez was a Riverside, Calif. college student who had been active with the Riverside Children’s Theater in choir during middle and high school.

The portrait of their killer is a sketchy one and a motive remains elusive. 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 said in recent days.

In news briefings, Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo expressed appreciation for his fast-acting colleagues in law enforcement.

“We saved hundreds of lives,” he said. “A lot more was prevented because of our police action and private security action.”

Las Vegas Shooting: Survivors Speak

Macon native Jason Aldean, who was performing at the Route 91 Harvest Festival when shots rang out, has been grieving for victims and calling for unity in heartfelt social media posts.

“Something has changed in this country and in this world lately that is scary to see. This world is becoming the kind of place I am afraid to raise my children in,” he wrote. “We are all humans and we are all Americans and it’s time to start acting like it and stand together as ONE!”

Aldean has cancelled several upcoming concert dates out of respect for the victims.

The outpouring of support has been moving - folks including Greg Harmon, a retired civil servant from Warner Robins, were lined up at daybreak to donate at United Blood Services in Las Vegas.

“This is what America is,” said Harmon, whose father fought in Korea. “Who we strive to be as a country.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Greg Harmon, a retired civil servant from Warner Robbins whose father was a Korean War veteran, upheld his family’s tradition of service by showing up to donate blood at United Blood Services in Las Vegas. Photo: Ernie Suggs, esuggs@ajc.com

Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center, where 214 victims were taken Sunday night and where 68 remained on Tuesday, 33 in critical condition, has received so many deliveries of food and water that officials had to post a social-media update asking people to stop donating.

“It’s affecting all of us,” trauma nurse Renae Huening said Tuesday afternoon. “This nightmare is still continuing.”

She reported to what she initially thought was an incident involving eight people on Sunday night and struggled to find words to describe what the hospital dealt with instead. Fifteen victims died.

“Our floors are white; they were covered in red,” emergency-room certified nursing assistant Jacqueline Rodriguez said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Heartbreaking messages like this one filled a board at the impromptu memorial site set up in front of the famed Bellagio to honor victims. Photo: Jennifer Brett, jbrett@ajc.com

Elsewhere, Paddock’s rampage has left many in this neon-lit vacationers’ paradise in a fog.

“I’m just numb,” said Stacey Disney, whose friend’s daughter was shot twice and remains hospitalized. Disney has lived in Las Vegas for years and hopes the sorrow and outrage over Sunday’s shootings won’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?”

Steve Titzer of Evansville, Ind., who had attended the Sunday night concert with his wife Paula, on Tuesday lit a candle at an impromptu memorial site set up at the famed Bellagio.

“Yesterday, we were just zombies,” he said. “Of course, we didn’t sleep.”

Once he and Paula realized someone was firing on the crowd, they ran against the surge of concert goers, hoping not to be stampeded.

“We saw a lot of blood. We saw bodies,” he said. “They weren’t moving.”

Someone helped him and his wife 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 frantic husband. Titzer 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, but more than 500 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,” Patterson’s husband Robert wrote. “I cannot tell you how much I will miss your smile and beautiful heart.”

“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.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Etta Salaj, left, and Jessica Lugo comfort each other as they mourn the victims of the Las Vegas shootings. Photo: Jennifer Brett, jbrett@ajc.com

Jessica Lugo, who works nearby, came down with a colleague to add their words of sympathy.

“There’s so much happiness that comes to town,” said Lugo, who 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.

“For something like this to happen is unfair,” she said. “We’re going to be mourning this forever.”

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