LAS VEGAS (AP) — The permanent memorial to the victims and survivors of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history will feature 58 candle-like beams under a plan officials in Las Vegas approved Tuesday.
With the design officially in place, Clark County commissioners will shift their focus to selecting a nonprofit that will oversee fundraising and the construction and maintenance of the project. It took years to get to this point in the process and could take years more before the memorial is unveiled at the site of the attack on the Las Vegas Strip.
The commissioners voted unanimously to proceed with the design recommended by the 1 October Memorial Committee, which was formed in 2019 to develop a design concept. The committee, which was dissolved Tuesday after commissioners voted, included a survivor and the sister of one of the 60 people who were killed in the October 2017 shooting.
“We are grateful to the design teams, family members, survivors and everyone who participated in this process to create a memorial to remember the events of 1 October,” said Clark County Commission Chairman Jim Gibson, whose district includes the festival site. “Thanks to the committee’s hard work, a very unique process was put into place to ensure that anyone who had an idea for the memorial could be heard.”
The number 58 in the final design represents the initial toll of people who were killed when a gunman opened fire from a 32nd-floor suite at the Mandalay Bay hotel on a country music festival crowd below. In addition to those who died at the scene or shortly after the attack, hundreds of people were injured, including two women who initially survived but died in subsequent years from causes attributed to their gunshot wounds.
Mynda Smith, whose sister Neysa Tonks was killed, said Tuesday that she was grateful to be a part of the memorial committee.
“I never thought that this journey could be filled with so much light," Smith said.
Tonks, a 46-year-old mother of three, had called Las Vegas home for about two decades.
“She loved this city,” Smith said. “I know that she's going to be honored, along with the 57 others who died that night, in such a beautiful way that will bring light to our families. And I know it will bring light to all the survivors.”
The final memorial concept is the work of local firm JCJ Architecture. It envisions a park shaped like an infinity symbol in what was the northeastern corner of the former concert venue, with 22,000 lights representing the number of people who attended the show that night. A looping path will take visitors through a garden area, past a 58-foot (18-meter) glass tower and to a “remembrance ring” with the 58 candles. Each beam will display the name and a photo of a victim.
The commissioners also approved an alternate design Tuesday that would feature 15 large horse statues representing the home states and countries of the 60 people who were killed, as well as two smaller horses in honor of the dozens of children who lost parents to the attack.
Amber Manka, whose mother died two years after she was shot and paralyzed in the massacre, said she finds the final design to be both beautiful and disappointing.
“This is a beautiful memorial for the 58 and their families. They deserve such a beautiful representation of their loved ones,” she told The Associated Press. But, she countered, “At this point, I’m pissed. My mom would never have suffered for two years if she didn’t get shot that night. That shooting rocked our family and left us without a mother, grandmother, daughter and sister.”
Manka said she was awaiting a response to a message she sent to the committee outlining her concerns. Her mother, Kimberly Gervais, spent her final years in and out of hospitals and treatment centers in Southern California, where she lived.
In a statement, the county said the final design was a reflection of the public input the committee had gathered through a series of surveys and group discussions.
“Clark County’s intent throughout this effort has been and continues to be to create a memorial that honors all who were affected by the tragedy, including the 58 who died in the immediate aftermath, all those who were injured, including the two who unfortunately passed months later, and all those who were affected in other ways,” the statement said. “Exactly how that will be done will continue to be determined as we move forward with the project.”
The permanent memorial will be separate from a community healing garden built in downtown Las Vegas by more than 1,000 volunteers in the days after the shooting.