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Six Months After Horrific Shooting, Las Vegas Girds For A Long Haul

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AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz

This Sept. 24, 2014 photo shows the field of empty chairs at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Each of the 168 chairs represents someone who died in the April 19, 1995 bombing, which destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The memorial is built where the building once stood.

In a flash unspeakable violence changes a community forever.

That happened in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, when a gunman sprayed bullets into an open-air concert, killing 58 and wounding hundreds.

It also happened in Oklahoma City a quarter century ago when a car bomb detonated outside a federal office building and left 168 dead.

And the healing there continues today.

Dozens of Oklahomans still receive medical and psychological care nearly 23 years after the April 19, 1995, bombing, according to Debby Hampton, who was with the Oklahoma City Red Cross at the time of the attack.

Hampton, who now leads United Way of Central Oklahoma, said recognition of the changes such a horrific incident brings is an important part of the healing.

“I wanted Oklahoma City to be like it was on April 18th, before the bombing, and I kept thinking, ‘How do we get back to normal?’” Hampton told State of Nevada. “The one thing I think you have to realize is you’re now in a new normal. It will never be the same, but you get to choose what that outcome will be.”

She said there was increased demand for services at the six-month milestone, which Las Vegas passes this weekend.

“That six-month mark meant so much for so many,” Hampton said. “All of sudden they were deciding, ‘I may need help; I may need assistance.’ It seems like the mental health pieces really started picking up at six months.”

Support comes from

Two Southern Nevada nonprofit leaders — Barbara Buckley, head of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, and Scott Emerson, CEO of United Way of Southern Nevada — said they’re preparing for the long haul.

“The Red Cross does the immediate near term, and then other organizations activate for the long term,” said Emerson, who headed the Nevada chapter of the American Red Cross on Oct. 1 and joined the United Way in February. “We’re eager to continue the conversation about what happens at year three and year five.”

Buckley said it could take years to resolve some of the hundreds of cases taken on by Legal Aid, including dealing with probate, insurance claims, and child custody and other family law issues.

Emerson and Buckley are part of the CEO Exchange, a group of nonprofit leaders working together to shore up the social safety net in Southern Nevada and avoid duplication of services.

“The CEO Exchange has on its board the CEOs of the larger, more-established nonprofits in our community. So it’s a way for us to exchange information, enhance collaboration,” Buckley said. “What we’ve been able to do is see how different nonprofits can help in the healing process.”

Buckley also is a former longtime Nevada state legislature, including serving as the state’s first female Assembly speaker. She predicted that lawmakers will address mental health issues in next year’s session.

She said she hopes additional resources are made available, but that “there are things we can do better even without money.”

Buckley said the state should look at how mental health spending is targeted and prioritized and if licensing barriers prevent therapists and psychologists who are experts in dealing with trauma from practicing in Nevada.

To Find Help

Those seeking assistance for issues connected to the Oct. 1 shooting can contact the #VegasStrong Resiliency Center online or by calling (702) 455-2433.

Barbara Buckley of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and Scott Emerson of United Way of Southern Nevada discuss plans for the community’s long-term response to the Oct. 1 mass shooting on the Strip/Credit: United Way of Southern Nevada

Debby Hampton/Credit: United Way of Central Oklahoma

 

Guests

Debby Hampton, assisted in recovery after Oklahoma City bombing; Barbara Buckley, heads Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada; Scott Emerson, CEO of United Way of Southern Nevada

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