Community events planned to commemorate anniversary of 1 October
It’s been nearly two years since a gunman took the lives of 58 people and wounded hundreds of others at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas. But some scars never heal.
“It’s actually harder now,” said Debby Allen, whose son, Christopher Roybal, a 28-year-old Navy veteran, was among those killed the night of Oct. 1, 2017. “Initially, the shock of it makes it feel like your life is fuzzy. When the fog fades and you realize this is, in fact, your life, it’s a whole different emotion.”
That painful clarity becomes all the more acute as the anniversary of the mass shooting approaches.
“As it draws closer, I feel like there’s an elephant on my chest,” Allen says over the phone from her home in Corona, Calif.
Allen plans to travel to Las Vegas to commemorate the anniversary, just as she did last year, with an event she organized to form a human chain around the concert site. She’s drawn to the venue because it’s the last place Roybal, the eldest of her four children, lived his life the way he most loved to: “singing and dancing and drinking and just having the best time of his life.”
The event, slated for 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Oct. 1, is one of many scheduled to honor victims and support survivors of the attack. The events include a sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center and a reading of victims’ names at the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden.
[RELATED: Las Vegas Newswire is publishing the #VegasStronger Calendar of healing events as a service to the community. Visit the calendar or submit an event here www.lasvegasnewswire.com/events.]
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak plans to speak at the Oct. 1 sunrise ceremony “to honor the lives of those lost and injured, their family and friends, and the first responders who helped prevent even greater harm.”
This “capacity to remember … binds us together as a community and makes us strong,” he says in a statement. “It might be painful to remember, but our strength comes from our will never to forget.”
Clark County and the Metropolitan Police Department will co-host the 7 a.m. ceremony with the Clark County Fire Department and the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center. It will be carried live on Clark County Television, Facebook and YouTube. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman will lead the Healing Garden ceremony, beginning at 10:05 p.m. that night.
“Our consciousness will always be marked by the horrific and tragic events of October 1, 2017,” she says in a statement. “Our city continues to heal, and we continue to mourn all those we lost.”
The downtown Healing Garden was conceived, built and opened within days of the shooting. “They had hundreds of volunteers of all ages working together, shoulder to shoulder,” to create “a place of peace in our city, a place of warmth and remembrance,” Goodman’s statement says. Such acts illustrate “the way our community came together in unity.”
Sisolak also speaks of how the community united in the shooting’s wake. The anniversary stirs feelings of “both pain and pride,” he says in the statement. “Pain for the 58 lives that were taken from us far too soon, yet an immense pride for the way our community came together in response … to give blood, to give comfort and support those impacted.”
Allen adds that the support she’s received — even from complete strangers — has helped her carry on after her son’s death. “Even now, I have people reach out to me from different parts of the world, all over the country, always checking on me,” she says. “People I don’t even know.”
Still, the horror of that night will never leave her. She and Roybal — who lived in Denver at the time — had come to Las Vegas to celebrate his upcoming birthday. Earlier that day, they hung out together at a pool at Mandalay Bay, where they were staying.
“We were having so much fun,” Allen says. “We were just soaking in life.”
Roybal left for the concert first. Allen headed out later. But the two would never meet up. Just after 10 p.m., bullets fired from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay rained down on the crowd of 22,000. Allen made it out. Roybal didn’t.
“I lost a piece of me that night,” Allen says.
Roybal served in the Navy from 2007-2012 and completed multiple tours in Afghanistan. Later, he managed a gym in Colorado. He was funny, fun-loving and sported a “Mom” tattoo on his right hand.
Says Allen: “He was my best friend.”
In preparation for this year’s human-chain event, Allen had portraits of each of the 58 people who died in the shooting printed. “I never want people to forget who these people are and that they were attached to so many people who loved them,” she says.
She hopes the event shows survivors and those who lost loved ones that night that “none of us are really alone. There are people who care enough to show up, to be there, to support them.”
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