On this Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, a photo, a photo of Las Vegas shooting victim Erick Silva, center, hangs on a wall in a memorial garden is under construction in Las Vegas. The small garden is the home of photos, crosses, ribbons, and dozens of other articles that you in the memory of the 58 people who were killed on Oct. 1, 2017, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern AMERICAN history. For their families and those who survived the massacre at a country music festival, this garden created by volunteers in the days that followed is a place to mourn and to heal. (AP Photo/John Locher)
LAS VEGAS – A picture of Angelica Cervantes’ son donning a black-and-yellow security guard T-shirt is one of the dozens of smiling photos pasted on walls in a Las Vegas garden decorated with ribbons, cowboy boots, horseshoes and rubber bracelets.
Cervantes to visit the other week to look at the photo that has endured the desert sun for almost a year, and to ask her son, Erick Silva, to watch over her, his stepfather, and his brothers and sisters. “Cuidanos,” she begs him, sometimes with tears in his eyes.
Silva was one of 58 people killed Oct. 1, 2017, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern AMERICAN history. For their families and those who survived the massacre at a country music festival , this garden created by volunteers in the days that followed is a place to mourn and to heal.
“It gave me the space to talk with him, and he is there with his angels,” Cervantes said, referring to the other victims. “Sometimes I get a (another mother). Some ask me how he was. Talking about him makes me proud.”
Under the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip, there is no indication of the bloodshed that took place there a year ago. The festival area is fenced and green screens to block any views of the inside. The flowers, flags, festoons and other items that crowded a nearby road, the median and the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign have been removed.
Today, the garden with 59 trees — one for each victim plus an oak represent the life — is the only permanent public space in the Las Vegas made in memory of the victims. It is situated a few metres from a bus stop and an adult shop and miles from the shooting site.
The quarter-acre space was planned to be a dog park, but in the days after the shooting, the dirt lot was leveled, concrete, brick and placed trees, shrubs, purple pansies, red and white roses and bright pink petunias were planted. A “Memory Wall” was hammered together from wooden pallets.
The wooden wall has been recently replaced by a set of metal and faux-wood structures. The photos and some items from the original wall were transferred. The fountain is now working, and a stone sculpture of a pair of angel wings with the initials of each victim was recently added.
Volunteers on Saturday planted dozens of colorful flowers surrounding the garden. Some people later took videos of their walks through the garden. A few left of red roses next to photos of some of the victims, while a man brought his guitar and played soothing notes.
Many survivors of the shooting in Las Vegas this weekend for a large private reunion and other planned events ahead of the one-year anniversary on Monday.
Throughout the year, several friends and relatives have decorated the tree for their loved one. A laminated photo of Arizona Diamondbacks players in honor of Christiana Duarte is pinned to a tree, while the other has decorated river stones for Hannah Ahlers. Cervantes had a T-shirt and flowers.
A museum is the storage of the original wall and souvenirs on the left of the garden that can be damaged by the weather conditions, while the volunteers in another museum have catalogued more than 15,000 items left at makeshift memorials in October last year. A small example of the thousands of items, including cowboy boots, hats, stuffed animals and candles — recently went on display.
A committee headed by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval will work to design, finance and build a lasting memory. If the history has, it will still take years before it is completed. Almost a decade went by for a memorial for the victims of the Columbine High School massacre was finished, while a commission last month to an agreement on a design for the monument for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims.
The practice of honoring the dead with improvised monuments and shrines along the way is not new, but the save of the items left behind. Ashley Maynor, who has studied community reactions to tragedies, said both are ways of processing grief.
“After a tragedy of this magnitude that reveals something disturbing about the character of the man, people want to do something to reaffirm their humanity, to affirm goodness in the world and the feeling that they have some agency in the face of something incomprehensible,” said Maynor, a digital scholarship librarian at the University of New York.
The need to do something is what drove Jay Pleggenkuhle and his business partner sketch of the garden on a napkin and ask the city for space for a pop-up park. Businesses and individuals immediately stepped up to help, and a year later, they continue to do so.
Cervantes — whose son was her right hand, and held Halloween and burritos — will be the return of the garden Oct. 1, when the name of each victim will be read during a ceremony.
“Many of the family members to come back and the time spent in the garden,” Pleggenkuhle said. “One victim in particular — her parents live in Redding, California, and every time that they go to Las Vegas, they come to the garden. Instead of being angry and bitter with Las Vegas and for what happened to their daughter here, they are looking at how this community came together to make something beautiful to honor her life.”
The complete AP coverage of the Las Vegas mass shooting here: https://apnews.com/tag/LasVegasmassshooting.