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1 October Survivors Find Strength Three Years Later

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Associated Press

Three years ago, today the world watched as 58 concertgoers were murdered and hundreds of others were injured at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival.

In the past three years, two more victims died from their injures bringing the total number of deaths to 60.

Leala Tyree is among the thousands of people who survived the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting. 

She was there with her two sons. One of whom was celebrating his birthday. They had been to the festival in the past to mark the occasion.

She said when they arrived they parked on Giles Street, which runs behind the venue, parallel to Las Vegas Boulevard. When they got inside the concert area, they found a spot up front near the stage beside the eastside catwalk.

Tyree said they made friends with the people around them and found out a couple from California was there to celebrate a birthday as well.

“It was all one family in one big spot. Little did we know,” she said.

When Jason Aldean took the stage, the crowd went wild, Tyree said. He was the headliner that night and everyone was excited to hear him. 

Not long into his set, the shots started ringing out. Tyree, like many others, thought it was fireworks at first.

“The second volley went off and utter panic set in because we heard ricochets and we knew then, that wasn’t fireworks,” she said.

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Tyree, her boys and their friend hid behind a barricade and the shots kept coming. She will never forget what Aldean said before he was rushed off stage by security - "Run!"

Tyree and her family and friends ran towards their car. They were able to make it through Gate 4 and onto Giles Street. That is where they found a family from California with one person who had been shot in the arm. 

They loaded them into their truck and raced to the nearest hospital. One of Tyree's boys wrapped his shirt and belt around the victim's arm and kept her calm and conscious until they got to the hospital.

 

Now, three years later, Tyree said her life has changed a lot, but now she says her life is "utterly amazing."

"A lot of things have changed for me," she said, "I've learned that I'm a lot stronger than I thought I was. I've learned that any obstacle that is in front of me I can work right past that." 

Tyree believes that she made it through the initial healing phase of her recovery because she had a great support system and a counselor that focused on her.

She also credits her natural ability to look for positivity in life.

"I've always been a happy, cheerful person, but what I learned from that night was: Life is short and it can change in a flash," she said.

Tyree said being sad and gloomy does no one any good, least of all her. She has always been a person who saw the glass as half full and that is how she approached healing from the shooting.

Despite that happy disposition, she admitted she has had times where she felt triggered. Shortly after the shooting, a neighbor was having a birthday party and some of the balloons they had up for decoration popped. Tyree hid until she remembered that she was in a safe space.

But even now, when she goes to a concert or other event, she pays attention to her surroundings and makes sure she outlines an escape route in her head. 

Tyree sought counseling not long after the shooting, but Terri Keener, with the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center, said it is not uncommon for people to wait a long time to seek help.

She said the center is still getting calls now from people reaching out for the first time.

"It is difficult to fathom what happened and the impact it has on you and not everybody understands what it is that's happening or what they're going through and there is support available and they don't have to go through it alone," she said.

Keener said sometimes people don't reach out until something else difficult or traumatic happens in their lives, and they realize they need help. 

While Tyree seems to have turned a corner in her recovery, Keener noted that not everyone will react the way she did and healing is different for everyone.

"We are focusing on long-term recovery and healing and trying to provide as many different ways of healing that we can because not everyone heals in the same way or from the same services," she said.

Plus, Keener noted the shooting didn't just impact the people who were at the concert, but their families, the first responders, hospital workers and really everyone in the city that day.

The grant money for the Resiliency Center is set to run out soon but Keener is hopeful they will get funds to keep the services going.

As for Tyree, the shooting gave her a new perspective on the fragility of life, which prompted her to leave her husband, who she had been married to for more than 30 years. She told KNPR's State of Nevada that she has never been happier.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Guests

Leala Tyree, survivor, Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting; Terri Keener, Behavior Health Coordinator, Vegas Strong Resiliency Center 

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