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Tourists coming to Las Vegas add stops at memorials to victims of deadly shooting to their itineraries

Tourists coming to Las Vegas add stops at memorials to victims of deadly shooting to their itineraries
Antoinette Cannon, a trauma nurse who treated victims of the deadly shootings in Las Vegas, leaves a rose at each of the 58 white crosses at a makeshift memorial on the south end of the Strip on Oct. 7. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Every weekend brings exuberant crowds to Las Vegas, including thousands from Southern California. But for a city still recovering from the deadly shootings on Oct. 1, this past weekend felt subdued.

Full sightseeing buses and the usual throng of cars moved slowly along Las Vegas Boulevard, past marquees and moving billboards bearing sobering messages in a community known for excess.

An electronic billboard moves along the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 7.
An electronic billboard moves along the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 7. Jay Jones / For The Times

The most common sentiment was “Vegas Strong.” It’s part of the effort at healing that has brought three new gathering places in the city, all tributes to the dozens who died in the massacre.

In a median along Las Vegas Boulevard, locals and tourists come to pay their respects to the 58 people who died.
In a median along Las Vegas Boulevard, locals and tourists come to pay their respects to the 58 people who died. Jay Jones

A makeshift memorial has sprung up along the Strip, in the median just steps from Las Vegas Village. The village was the entertainment venue at which 22,000 country music fans were gathered at the Route 91 Harvest festival when gunfire erupted.

The memorial is huge and still growing. It’s within easy sight of the shooting ground (which is still sealed by crime scene tape) and the Mandalay Bay resort, from which the lethal volleys were fired.

A steady stream of people come to pay their respects and to take photos.

Some visitors pay at the temporary memorial with 58 white crosses, one for each victim, on the south end of Las Vegas Strip,
Some visitors pay at the temporary memorial with 58 white crosses, one for each victim, on the south end of Las Vegas Strip, Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Less than a couple of miles to the south, the site of the city’s famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign had a new feature: a row of 58 crosses, one for each victim. The outpouring of sympathy and support appeared midweek.

Continuing police roadblocks made it challenging to reach the iconic sign. Still, the place was teeming with people during the weekend.

A woman wearing a “Vegas Strong” T-shirt is among those visiting the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden, which opened Saturday.
A woman wearing a “Vegas Strong” T-shirt is among those visiting the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden, which opened Saturday. Jay Jones

In downtown Las Vegas, a steady stream of people paid their respects at the city’s newest park, the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden. Joined by throngs of volunteers, Daniel Perez and Jay Pleggenkuhle of Stonerose Landscapes in suburban Henderson created and built the park in three days. It opened Friday evening.

Visitors at the Remembrance Wall in the garden that was put up in three days.
Visitors at the Remembrance Wall in the garden that was put up in three days. Jay Jones

“There’s a lot of symbolism to it,” Pleggenkuhle said. “We’ve planted 58 trees, one for each life lost. There’s a pathway that meanders through this grove of trees, and they’re all lit.

“And there’s one central tree in the middle … that’s our ‘tree of life’ to all those who are left.”

A Remembrance Wall shares photos of each victim, plus mementos, such as cowboy boots and flags. Weekend visitors stood beside the wall, mostly in silence. Some took pictures, even selfies.

“It’s becoming a place where people go and let go of their loss and their hurt and sit together,” Pleggenkuhle said of the park. It is along Casino Center Boulevard between Coolidge Avenue and Charleston Boulevard.

Brian Cordero and Emily Dagna of Chino hold hands Oct. 7 at a makeshift memorial just yards from the site of the Las Vegas shootings.
Brian Cordero and Emily Dagna of Chino hold hands Oct. 7 at a makeshift memorial just yards from the site of the Las Vegas shootings. Jay Jones / For The Times

Back along the Strip on Saturday afternoon, Brian Cordero, 32, and Emily Dagna, 25, a couple from Chino, were among those gathered amid the candles, balloons, teddy bears and other tributes near the site of shooting.

The two were in town for an already planned trip to attend a concert. They decided to spend part of the day praying for those who died and distributing black rubber wristbands reading “God’s Got This.”

Not regular visitors to southern Nevada, Dagna and Cordero weren’t aware of their proximity to the concert grounds until a reporter pointed it out.

Brian Cordero of Chino on Oct. 7 handed out rubber wristbands in Las Vegas bearing the words “God’s Got This.”
Brian Cordero of Chino on Oct. 7 handed out rubber wristbands in Las Vegas bearing the words “God’s Got This.” Jay Jones / For The Times

“It [the massacre] is so awful, it should be remembered somehow,” Dagna said.

“We have tons of memorials,” Cordero said. “Do something positive with that land — maybe build a school. … I know there are a lot of homeless over here, maybe something to help them.”

With the memorials drawing crowds, the city has put its usual marketing on hold. The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, which markets the popular destination, has suspended its advertising campaigns.

Rossi Ralenkotter, head of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, told reporters last week that Las Vegas would suspend its marketing campaign for a while.
Rossi Ralenkotter, head of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, told reporters last week that Las Vegas would suspend its marketing campaign for a while. Mark Damon / Las Vegas News Bureau

“There’s going to be a time when we go back to promoting Las Vegas as the greatest destination in the world, but that’s not now,” Rossi Ralenkotter, the agency’s president and chief executive and a lifelong Vegas resident, told reporters Thursday. “We need to take care of the community itself, and that’s what we will be doing.”

A box of tissues sits on a tree stump at the new Las Vegas Community Healing Garden on Oct. 7.
A box of tissues sits on a tree stump at the new Las Vegas Community Healing Garden on Oct. 7. Jay Jones / For The Times

Plans for the site of the shootings are unclear. Sites of other tragedies have been turned into memorials. The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, site of the April 1995 bombing that killed 168 people and injured more than 500, has become a national memorial.

Plans for the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., where a gunman shot and killed 49 patrons and injured 68 in June 2016, continue to develop.

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