Roadside memorials are often seen along desert highways. They mark a place where a life was claimed with crosses or homemade signs that bear names and serve as eulogies of remembrance. Now there are a few on The Las Vegas Strip. Candles for the victims of the Route 91 Festival have been placed in the median at Las Vegas Boulevard and West Reno Avenue, an intersection near the entrance of the concert grounds, transforming the urban space into a desert memorial.
Candles also flicker at the Las Vegas sign. Here, visitors and family members, locals and out-of-towners, began leaving messages and mementos soon after the tragic deaths. I went back last night and what started at the base of the sign is now sprawled out several feet, and piling against the 58 crosses placed in tribute to the shooting victims.
It is converting the iconic welcome into an intimate monument reminiscent of a home altar, a Mexican tradition, where loved ones leave messages. There are also offerings, reflecting the ritual of ofrendas, a practice that dates to indigenous cultures. In recent years, the home altar has been made popular by Day of the Dead celebrations, and contemporary Latino/a artists have created altars to be interpreted as a cultural artwork installation.
This expression of spirituality has became a cross-cultural practice. That is happening on The Strip. From the sign to the last cross a common thread is seen: a love for music that all the victims shared. There are also cowboy hats, flowers, balloons, small notes by school children, and large banners signed by college students. For now the site is a collection of personal shrines that, like home altars, are personal manifestations of faith by locals and visitors that has transformed this patch of public land into a shared space of reflection.
Here are some written offerings by Las Vegas writers:
“Ordinary people have acted in heroic ways, like loading the wounded onto truck beds and trying to get friends and strangers to hospitals. Las Vegas’s two major trauma centers were at full capacity Monday treating the wounded. Workers at hotels that were under lockdown tried to calm startled guests and employees. In the hours after the shooting, people desperate to offer help lined up to donate blood.
As I write this, my co-workers and others are returning to work. The Strip is filling back up with tourists seeking a sense of safety along with the escape they came here in search of. In the ways we do every day, and in the heroic ways this terrible occasion calls for, I see those who live and work in Las Vegas taking care of people. It’s what we do best.”
In Las Vegas, We Take Care of People
Brittany Bronson via NYTimes
"A newsroom is still buzzing with activity at 7 p.m. There is a silent nod that press photographers give one another when they are too busy to share words but not share camaraderie. A Facebook friend is nursing a gunshot wounded shoulder. Two cowboys with spurs gangle while hands are full of pizza boxes, and a .44 Magnum on their hips. Headlights traveling on cinderblock walls guide my way home. My wife's exhausted face still smiles . . . in a child-infested house in the most beautiful city in the world. Good night Las Vegas."
Brent Holmes via Facebook
"Vegas is the Wild West. It’s the only state where prostitution is legal, where gambling isn’t a secret but a recognized and celebrated part of the mainstream culture. For many, owning guns is part of that culture, too. Firearms are all tied up, somehow, with freedom. Now we’re going to have to think about which freedoms matter to us the most.
The freedom to live? The freedom of movement? The freedom to travel around the state and country (and check into hotels) without being scanned, searched and prodded? Or the freedom to amass arsenals of war? It’s our choice. Which ones are sacred to us as a state, and as a country? This is a question of identity. Right now, it’s clear who we are. Right now, we are willing to give up everything in exchange for unlimited gun access. Is that who we want to be?"
Op-Ed We don't need your prayers in Sin City. We need gun control
C. Moon Reed via LATimes
"All municipalities, from the teensiest podunk to the tallest metropolis, one day face harsh, abrupt tests of their resolve. And I'm not at all sure Las Vegas would have survived this one had it occurred around the time I left in 2002, back when people only took up residence in this erstwhile town to make enough money to leave it. I can imagine some of us might have bonded together then, but not all. This time, as the cliche goes, we're all in."
Goeff Carter via Facebook
Cultural Mix: Hawaii sends 2-mile-long lei to people of Las Vegas, the 'ninth island." R-J + Video
From Clark County Communications. October 13.
The crosses will be moved to the Clark County Museum on Sunday Nov. 12, according to an announcement from Jim Gibson, Clark County Commissioner, and Greg Zanis, the retired carpenter who created the crosses.
Above: Stephen Hendee created sculpture for the celebration of 30 years of public art programming in the City of Las Vegas.