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May 21, 2019

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Downtown gathering at new remembrance wall caps emotional day of memorials

Mass shooting

John Locher / AP

People attend a ceremony to dedicate a memorial garden and wall for victims, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, on the anniversary of the mass shooting a year earlier, in Las Vegas.

Healing Garden and Remembrance Wall

Members of the community gather at the Community Healing Garden in Downtown Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2018 to honor the victims of the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting that occured one year ago, today. Launch slideshow »

One by one, the names of the 58 fatalities were read out loud. In a day of tributes throughout Las Vegas in remembrance of the lives lost last year in the mass shooting on the Strip, this was the final one.

And it was powerful.

Attendees, many of whom were emotional, held hands as the names were recited beginning at 10:05 p.m. — the precise moment when shots were fired last year — during the ceremony at the Healing Garden and Remembrance Wall in downtown. The message: Those 58 concertgoers who were the unexpected victims in the worse mass shooting in modern American history will never be forgotten.

Hundreds gathered a few hours early at the wall to start the tribute in a day of many such events, beginning at sunrise when 58 white doves were released into the air nearby at Clark County headquarters.

The crowd in the evening, everyone from Gov. Brian Sandoval and other dignitaries, to massacre survivors and family of the deceased, celebrated the newly constructed permanent wall.

The wall is made of metal siding that looks like wood to replace the original wooden wall that was erected in the days following the shooting and became worn over the months. The new wall includes a bluestone angel sculpture featuring the initials of each of the victims.

The quarter-acre site also includes the healing garden, which features 59 trees, one for each of the 58 casualties and one representing the tree of life.

The wall is a place to remember the good about each of those taken too soon and to make the world a better place, said Jay Pleggenkuhle, one of its creators.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman envisions the wall and garden serving as a place to reflect on the tragedy — not only now, but for future generations.

“It came from the heart and soul of our people, where we found we could breathe again,” Goodman said. “To feel part of something permanent, something resilient. It’s about Earth … living, life and surviving for years to come. Far beyond any of our years.”

Scott Schweitzer — whose daughter Bailey Schweitzer, 20, is one of the 58 casualties remembered on the wall — said his family visited the display after it was initially built and then again on Monday to see the newly created version.

Schweitzer has kept in touch with other families who lost loved ones in the attack, and said that, on top of attending memorials like the wall dedication, has helped in the healing process.

“We are taken aback by how this healing garden has developed,” he said. “Las Vegas, the time and effort put into this has been amazing. It’s really helped us heal. It’s really been good.”

The youngest of three kids, Bailey loved country music and spending time with her mom, Chrissy. Mother and daughter had wanted to attend the festival for the past three years but never made it, Schweitzer. Last year they finally did.

“Losing her was an absolute devastation to our family,” he said.