By VERNON ROBISON
Moapa Valley Progress
It was a solemn gathering at the Overton Park pavilion area on Monday, October 2. About 75 people assembled at 7:00 pm in the park to pray together, to grieve, and to try to come to some understanding of the tragic recent events.
Just the night before, chaos had erupted at the Route 91 Harvest festival on the Las Vegas strip. A lone gunman had opened fire on the concert crowd below from the windows of his 32nd floor suite at the Mandalay Bay. By the time the mayhem had ended, 59 people were killed and 489 were wounded. It was the largest mass shooting in modern American history.
The news was shocking to the world, but especially to nearby Moapa Valley residents. There were many local connections. Most locals soon found that they knew people who had been killed, injured, or in attendance at the massacre. By Monday night, emotions were high in the community.
“I spent the whole day today listening to the news and my heart was just broken,” said Overton resident Lois Hall on Monday night. Hall had organized the local prayer vigil.
“I just got more and more upset, wondering what I could do,” she said. “But I realized that there is really nothing that I can do except to pray. So I decided to try and get the community together for this.”
As community members arrived at the park, candles were lit for the vigil. Clergy members from many local churches and their families were in attendance to offer comforting words and prayer.
Pastor Wayne Evans of New Hope Christian Church said that in life it is natural that we have periods of mourning. He cited the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35 where “Jesus wept.”
“It was when he saw his friends at the tomb of Lazarus and he was full of compassion,” Evans said. “At times like this we grieve together and we come together to pray.”
Moapa Christian Church Pastor Paul Howard gave a prayer asking for people to be blessed with understanding of the tragic events that had so defied understanding.
“With understanding that comes from God, fears dispell and we can find peace in the midst of suffering,” Howard said.
Pastor Jason Ham of Calvary Community Church prayed for “peace to those who weep.” He prayed that those injured would receive effective treatment and be returned to health, that the angry would have their anger replaced by peace, and that the confused would find hope and order.
Lake Mead Baptist Pastor Scott Adams said that encounters with evil and senseless violence often causes people to doubt and to have questions: “Why such evil is allowed.” He prayed that “…only by the grace and mercy of the Lord can we have hope.”
Some of those in attendance at the vigil had also been part of the terrorized crowd at the country music concert the night before. Local resident Kacie Martino had attended the concert with her mom Tracey Pirtle. Fortunately, they had been positioned toward the back of the audience area when the shots began firing. They were able to flee to safety without injury.
“We talked about it, but what if we had actually moved to the area just in front of the stage?” said Martino. “It is that question that keeps coming back to me now.”
The two women ended up staying up all night long Sunday night sequestered in a nearby hotel building. At around 4:30 am they walked from Tropicana to Paradise Ave where the roads were open. There a family member, whom they had called, was able to pick them up and take them home.
“I haven’t slept since 6:30 yesterday morning,” Martino said. “It has been almost impossible to calm down and rest.”
Martino has three young children age 8, 6 and 3. Naturally, they were curious about the incident.
“How do you explain something like that to them?” she said. “All I could says is that there were a lot of mommies that are not coming home to their kids tonight. It is hard for them to understand.”
Eddie Houston, the son of Overton residents Rick and Lori Houston was also at the festival with a group of friends. But when the bullets began flying he was right in the middle of it. He was located right down close to the stage on one side, Lori Houston said. He was one of the lucky ones that was able to get out of the area okay without injury.
“He was seeing people he was trying to help get shot right in front of him,” Lori Houston said. “He saw horrible things that a person his age – any age – should never have to see. And he is going to live with that for a long time.”
Lois Hall was pleased with the turnout at the candlelight vigil and with the quiet peace that prevailed there.
“I’m so grateful to all of the clergy that were here and the words that they gave,” she said. “And I so appreciate the support of all the community members for their participation.”