Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017 | 9:38 p.m.
In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history last Sunday on the Las Vegas Strip, a local church united with more than 500 community members and visitors this evening to honor the 58 lives that were lost during the tragedy at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.
“Evil showed up last week but today there’s love,” said Stretch Sanders, minister at All Shades United, during a vigil at the corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. “We will not let this break us.”
Attendees held lit candles and signs, sang songs, and repeated “Vegas Strong” after Sanders during the hour-long vigil, which marked the one-week anniversary of the tragic events of Oct. 1. Nearly 500 people were also injured when gunman Stephen Paddock opened fired from his 32nd floor hotel room at the Mandalay Bay onto the attendees of the country music festival.
But the actions of “one deranged person” couldn’t prevent the Las Vegas community from coming together, Sanders said. He cited the countless acts of heroism and more than $20 million in donations raised to date as examples of Las Vegas’ “true sense of community.”
“Look around here, love is real,” Sanders said. “The best way to remember the lives lost is to show love to one another.”
The vigil briefly took an ugly turn when an All Shades United speaker referenced three recent deaths of African American men at the hands Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, in an attempt to incorporate police brutality into the vigil.
But vigil attendees soon voiced their displeasure, causing a stir as jeers and shouts interrupted an otherwise somber event.
“That’s not why we’re here right now,” an attendee shouted as the speaker, who later refused to identify himself, continued to plea before Sanders took away the microphone from him.
“We’re here to remembered the victims of Oct. 1,” another vigil attendee said.
Standing at the back of the crowd with a homemade painted wood sign reading “Vegas Strong” held high, Chelsey Morrison said she and her family attended Sunday’s event to honor the lost lives. Morrison and her husband, Brian, said they know multiple people that were present at the festival and injured by gunfire.
Sunday’s event was one of many memorial events the married couple attended with their three children “to show we’re Vegas Strong.”
“We support our community and we want to do our part,” Chelsey Morrison said.
Tyler Pulli, 24, passed out candles in glass jars to participants at the event as a way to unite attendees, after learning two of her friends had been injured by bullets as last week’s festival.
“It’s a way to show we’re all in this together,” Pulli said.
With an illuminated candle in hand and staring ahead solemnly ahead, 3-year Las Vegas resident Chris Dean listened quietly as Sanders delivered a message of hope for the community. At the end of the vigil, Dean, 39, raised his candle in the air with hundreds of other participants — some teary eyed — and nodded his head.
“This is our community, and it really hits us in the heart.” Dean said. “But we’re a tight-knit community and tonight shows that.”