John Locher / AP
Thursday, March 29, 2018 | 2 a.m.
It’s been six months since the Oct. 1 mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Las Vegas Strip. Victims have been eulogized, the injured have left hospitals, the 58 white crosses erected at the iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign have been stored and national attention has shifted from one mass shooting to the next.
But for the loved ones of those killed on Oct. 1 and the thousands injured or affected, the tragedy still prevails day to day as they nurse their emotional wounds and seek a healthy way forward.
If you go
Vegas Strong Support Gathering
What: Support group that gathers to discuss trauma resulting from the Oct. 1 shooting.
When: Wednesdays, 5:30-7 p.m.
Where: Stoney’s Rockin’ Country in Town Square, 6611 Las Vegas Blvd. South, #160
On a recent Wednesday, about a dozen survivors sat on barstools inside Stoney’s Rockin’ Country. The support group meets weekly before the bar opens to touch base and reflect on their progress.
“In these last weeks, I had a lot of triggers — a lot, a lot of triggers,” said a female survivor who did not want to be named. “That’s why I started coming here.” After the shooting, the mere opening notes of a Jason Aldean song would send her into a panic (he was performing when Stephen Paddock began firing onto the crowd of about 22,000). But now, it’s cathartic, she said.
A New Jersey family who came to Las Vegas for the first time since the shooting told the group about their drive through the festival grounds earlier that day. They also discussed their walk at the Tropicana, the resort where they sought shelter after bullets began to fly. By coincidence, the song Aldean opened with the night of the shooting was playing on the casino’s speakers.
It’s been “intense” and a “mix of emotions,” said a family member, who also wished to remain anonymous. The family returned to Las Vegas to speak to people who shared their experience.
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“Physical wounds heal — you see scars, you might not be back to 100 percent, but you physically can see how you improved,” said Angelic Parrinello, a Route 91 Harvest Festival attendee. “Emotional ones you can’t see, and there’s no scale to compare one person to another.”
Parrinello and her husband stood toward the back of the crowd the night of the Aldean show, while their teenage daughter stood 15 feet from the front stage, enjoying the weekend the family had planned for months. Then gunfire broke out.
For eight minutes, the Parrinellos could not communicate with their daughter. High schoolers led the teen to safety, and she climbed fences to escape the grounds, seeing the carnage along the way.
Since the shooting, the teen felt marginalized at school and her previously good grades plummeted, causing her family to opt for homeschooling.
Parrinello and her daughter sought counseling, and healing includes involvement with the survivor communities, meeting families of those killed and participating in events such as the delivery of thank-you baskets to hospitals in December.
Parrinello has also attended concerts.
“People keep saying we can’t expect to go back to our old normal, we just have to wait for a new normal,” she said. “I hope this isn’t my new normal. I keep waiting to not be as sad all the time.”
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The investigation into what caused a high-stakes gambler from Mesquite to smash two windows of his 32nd floor suite at the Mandalay Bay and fire more than 1,000 rounds onto the crowd continues.
Metro Police and the FBI have kept mum on developments, noting that they have not determined a motive but that Paddock acted alone and was not affiliated with any groups.
Local and federal court documents, as well as an 81-page preliminary report released by Metro in January provided a look into the investigation in the days following the shooting and the actions of the gunman in the days prior.
Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, helped load gun magazines, but authorities said she had no involvement in the shooting.
An ammunitions dealer from Arizona who allegedly sold Paddock illegally manufactured armor-piercing rounds was charged.
A full report on the shooting will tentatively be released toward the end of the year, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo has said.
This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.