In the week following October 1, 2017, social media groups sprang up providing a place for survivors, victims, their families, first responders and staff of the Route 91 Harvest Festival to connect.
Shawna Bartlett is one of the people who was instrumental in creating and administering those sites. She joined us, along with her fellow survivor, Pat Amico, a few days before a large gathering to mark one year since the shooting.
Bartlett is vice president of Love Wins. She explained that it started with a kids toy drive by Dennis Guerrero, a photographer at Route 91, and grew from there into a nonprofit that helps victims’ families and other survivors with various difficulties.
“It’s a really good place for people to use as a resource for doing good things for other people,” Bartlett said.
The related project, 58 Random Acts of Kindness, became a nationwide effort to do nice things in honor of the victims. Bartlett also began doing reunion events for survivors within three weeks of October 1. The first one attracted around 100 people.
“I realized that people who had helped each other were meeting for the first time,” Bartlett said. “There were a lot of people who were looking for each other. I could see smiles. I could see hugging. I could see some sort of relief in each person’s eyes... It was a little bit of healing each time for all of the survivors... I knew we all needed some healing from that night, and I just kept going.”
She and fellow organizer Connie Long then planned a big reunion to take place in Las Vegas on September 29, 2018. It was open only to those directly touched by the tragedy, in order to provide a safe place for them to commune with peers.
Amico and Bartlett said they’d like to see more people paying attention to the October 1 shooting, but not in a political way.
“The fact that this was the worst mass shooting in modern history and no one’s talking about it is a little frightening,” Bartlett said. “I think it needs to be less political and more sympathetic.”
“You have 22,000 people, and the vast majority of them have come together to support one another in a way that’s unbelievable,” Amico added. “To see how supportive everybody is of each other, no political views involved. It’s an amazing thing... Everybody’s divided in this country, and yet among this 22,000, it’s almost one voice.”
Amico also talked about 58 Angels, a song written by his cousin that he recorded and released as part of an album benefitting victims of the shooting.
Asked what loved ones can do to best support someone who’s struggling during this time that’s reminiscent of the shooting, Bartlett advised just being understanding.
“You can’t fix it and it’s not your fault,” she said. “Just understand that what we’re going through is unexplainable... There’s nothing they can do other than just give us a hug and let us know that you’re there. When we’re ready, we’ll talk. When we’re ready, we’ll cry. And we’ll explain, but it’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there.”
Shawna Bartlett, vice president, Love Wins; Pat Amico, survivor, 1 October shooting
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