Vegas Strong: Life for survivors five years later
The Route 91 Harvest Festival mass shooting in Las Vegas is the deadliest in recent United States history. It left an indelible mark on many lives. For some, it completely changed the dynamics of their relationships.
Kimberly and Billy King were living together and raising children in Las Vegas. But they were unsure where their relationship was headed.
All that changed when Billy suffered life-changing wounds after getting shot in the chest.
“I had no say or anything on what happened to him. I had all his blood on me, but yet, didn't have rights to even go see him,” Kimberly remembers. “And we immediately, we’re like, no, we need to get married.” The two eloped soon after.
The gunman fired from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Billy worked at Delano, a hotel on the same property. The memories of Oct. 1 still haunt him.
“I usually don't go to Mandalay Bay side,” Billy says. “There was a situation, I had to take care of a guest and I went to that floor. Honestly, every day is a reminder. I go there and I think about it, no matter what.”
Many people were at work the night of the shooting, including retired police Lt. Ray Spencer. He came across dozens of victims at the concert’s main stage.
“One of the things I remember about that is people had cell phones in their pockets," Spencer says. "And you could see the phones ringing 'Mom,' 'Dad,' – you know, their loved ones calling, looking for them – that they're never coming home again.”
It’s an image Spencer continues to carry with him.
“I'll never forget that because you never know what tomorrow brings," he says. "And that's why you just have to live every day with that knowledge and, you know, do the best that you can while you're here and just enjoy the time that you are here. ”
Not taking life for granted is a sentiment expressed by many survivors, including Craig Nyman. He didn’t suffer physical wounds in the shooting but bears mental trauma.
“That night made me realize that every day that I'm here on this earth is a chance to have another 24 hours to do great and to do the best things I can," he says. "So to me, I'm not promised tomorrow. But I was given another chance.”
It took years for Nyman to recover. The concert promoter says despite the horrors of that night, he knew he was going to keep creating shows, in part because music is healing.
“It took a lot of rebuilding myself and deciding that I wanted more, and that I wanted to bring back the joy and happiness that I would have every single day," he says. "And I can tell you that it happened – four years, one month, and six days it took me to get happy.”
Nyman says that day finally came after attending a concert with his family.
“And the next morning, I went downstairs in my house, and unprovoked, I’m in the house by myself, and I just said with a big smile on my face, ‘I just felt genuinely happy.’”
For Robert Patterson and his daughter Brooke, the shooting’s aftermath means sharing victim Lisa Patterson’s story.
“We just hit it off from the very beginning," Robert says of Lisa. "My main thing was I was going to marry her from the day I first met her. Lisa loved being a mom, even when I met her, that was her main goal, to be a mom.”
“She was a big part of our lives," Brooke remembers. "She was part of our school, our sports. She’d always be at my school. My mom was a very loud person. She knew everyone and everyone knew her. She had such a distinctive personality.”
Lisa was at the concert with friends. She was one of the first victims publicly named, and photos of the smiling mother of three were shown in articles and newscasts all over the world.
Robert and his family now encourage everyone to “Live Like Lisa P.” They printed the phrase on green bracelets, hoping it reminds people to perform random acts of kindness for others.
Meanwhile, survivors Billy and Kimberly King made major career changes.
“So as of probably three days ago, I told my boss I wasn't going to be back after I have a surgery on my right shoulder now,” Billy says. “And so pretty much telling him I'm ready to go after 23 years.”
The Kings now have their own business, helping people prepare documents for taxes, divorces and other legal matters.
They also recently welcomed Baby Kenzee, making them a blended family of seven.
“She was a missing piece that we didn't think was missing," Lisa says.
"And then, now that she’s here, I just – I don't even like to leave her side," Billy adds.
Part 2 of Vegas Strong explores the mental health challenges that survivors and others faced.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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