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So much has happened in the five years since a sociopathic high roller opened fire on the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Festival from his 32nd-floor sniper’s nest in Mandalay Bay, killing 58 people and causing the injuries of more than 850 others. Two more of the injured died later.Memorials have gone up and been taken down, though the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden, with a tree for each victim, remains a soothing sanctuary. Event promoters and venues canceled or moved shows, tightened security, and then continued business as usual. Law enforcement agencies completed investigations, issued reports, changed their crisis response tactics, and ultimately concluded that no one would ever know why the shooter did what he did.And, along with the rest of the world, Las Vegas has been swept up in the chaos of political turmoil, global pandemic, and economic recession.Through all this, carrying the colossal weight of acute trauma, survivors have kept on getting their kids to school, showing up for work, and putting food on the table.But now, they say, everything’s different. In the aftermath of 1 October, life is tinted by a purposeful hue — something deeper than the self-indulgent cliché of seizing the day. They’re moving through every moment with the intention of making it count, for their loved ones, for each other, and for those who didn’t make it out.Their existence is a triumph of resilience, a source of hope in a world that sorely needs it.

Billy and Kimberly King

Photo of Billy and Kimberly King looking happy and in love
Photo: Aaron Mayes

Despite continued complications and repeated setbacks, they wrote their own fairy-tale ending

On the night of October 1, 2017, Billy King was fighting for his life at Sunrise Hospital after taking a bullet through the chest that missed the now-44-year-old’s heart by half a centimeter. His girlfriend of three years, Kimberly, who helped him escape the nightmarish scene at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, wasn’t allowed by his bedside. 

“Even though we were raising children together, I wasn’t his wife,” Kimberly, 31, says. “I had all his blood on me yet didn’t have any rights to even go see him.

“The very first thing we told each other when we saw each other at the hospital was, we needed to get married,” Kimberly recalls. “But it was just an emotional thing. I didn’t think it was actually going to happen.”

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Two months later, on December 9, Billy and Kimberly met with Joseph and Paol Nolan, fellow Route 91 survivors who provided first aid and flagged down a Lyft driver to take them to the hospital. The Kings flew them out from Los Angeles to thank them. They dined at Rivea on the 64th floor of Delano Las Vegas, the hotel adjacent to Mandalay Bay, where Billy worked as a bellman. As they reflected on that tragic night, Billy turned toward Kimberly and got on one knee.

The Kings have made beautiful new memories that eclipsed the horrific event, but the physical and mental hardships from 1 October didn’t end there, and life would bring more challenges their way. 

“We can probably write a book between these five years,” Billy says. 

Billy still experiences physical complications. He’s undergone a series of surgeries, with another slated for mid-October. “Five years later, and I’m still at the drawing board with this situation. (I’m) just kind of used to it now,” he says.

Getting used to circumstances no one should ever have to has become a norm for the Kings. Like when Billy returned to work at the Delano. “Every day is a reminder. I go there, and I think about it no matter what,” he says. “I guess, after time, it’s just gotten easier.”

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It wasn’t until this August that Billy gave notice at work, leaving the hospitality industry after 23 years. His new boss? Kimberly and himself.

A paralegal for 13 years, Kimberly found herself helping friends with power of attorney filings during the early months of the pandemic. One suggested she start her own business. She slept on it and quit her job the next day — that’s when King Solutions began. The company offers document preparation services for divorces, taxes, custody filings, and other processes that don’t require representation. Billy oversees their DMV services. “I’m just really grateful I’ve got an awesome wife and best friend in Kimberly,” Billy says. “I’m excited for her and our family’s future.”

Both Billy and Kimberly were previously married with children. Billy has two boys, Enoch, 14, and Eli, 12; Kimberly a girl, Velonee, 12, and a boy, Maximus, 11. They wanted a child together, so Billy had a reverse vasectomy in late 2020. On Valentine’s Day 2021, Kimberly woke up feeling nauseous. Kenzee King was on her way. That, too, wouldn’t be easy.

One day last September, Kimberly was very sick and couldn’t feel the baby moving. She and Billy rushed to the hospital. Kimberly was developing a severe case of COVID-19, complicating the pregnancy. Doctors delivered the baby that same day, but Kimberly had to spend 10 days in the ICU, Kenzee 14 days in the NICU.

The tables turned. Billy was the one praying by Kimberly’s bedside. “I didn’t know whether I was losing both or one,” Billy says. “It could have been a horror story but, once again, God’s miraculous for us. We’re here with our baby and moving forward.”

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Today, 1-year-old Kenzee is a kinetic bundle of mischief and curiosity, bringing a renewed energy to the family and focus to her parents’ purpose in life. “She was a missing piece that we didn’t think was missing,” Kimberly says. Φ