LAS VEGAS — The permanent memorial to the victims and survivors of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history will consist of 58 candle-like beams, according to a plan officials in Las Vegas approved on Tuesday.
Once the design is official, Clark County officials will focus on selecting a nonprofit organization that will oversee the fundraising, construction and maintenance of the project.
It took years to get to that point, and it could be years before the memorial is unveiled at the site of the Las Vegas Strip attack.
The commissioners unanimously voted to proceed with the design recommended by the October 1 Memorial Committee, formed in 2019 to develop a design concept.
The committee, which was dissolved after the commissioners’ vote on Tuesday, included a survivor and the sister of one of the 60 people killed in the October 2017 shooting.
“We thank the design teams, family members, survivors and everyone who participated in this process to create a memorial commemorating the events of October 1,” said Jim Gibson, chairman of the Clark County Commission, whose district includes the festival site heard. “Thanks to the committee’s hard work, a unique process was put in place to ensure that anyone who had an idea for the memorial could be heard.”
The number 58 in the final draft represents the initial number of people killed when a gunman opened fire on the crowd at a country music festival from a 32nd floor suite of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
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 from gunshot wounds in the years that followed.
Mynda Smith, whose sister Neysa Tonks was killed, said Tuesday she was grateful to be part of the memorial committee.
“I never thought this journey could be filled with so much light,” Smith said.
Tonks, a 46-year-old mother of three, has called Las Vegas home for about two decades.
“She loved this town,” Smith said. “I know that along with the 57 others who died that night, she will be honored in such a beautiful way that will bring light to our families. And I know it will bring light to all survivors.”
The final monument concept is the work of local office JCJ Architecture. It envisages an infinity symbol-shaped park in the northeast corner of the former concert hall, where 22,000 lights will represent the number of people who attended the show that night.
A circular route takes visitors through a garden area, past an 18 meter high glass tower and to a “memorial ring” with 58 candles. Each beam shows a victim’s name and photo.
Commissioners on Tuesday also approved an alternative design that would include 15 large horse statues representing the home states and countries of the 60 people killed, as well as two smaller horses honoring the dozens of children who lost their parents to the attack.
Amber Manka, whose mother died two years after she was shot and paralyzed in the attack, said she finds the final design both beautiful and disappointing.
“This is a beautiful memorial to the 58 and their families. They deserve such a beautiful portrayal of their loved ones,” she told The Associated Press. But she countered, “At this point, I’m pissed. My mother would never have suffered for two years if she hadn’t been shot that night. This shooting has devastated our family and left us without a mother, grandmother, daughter and sister.”
Manka said she was awaiting a response to a message expressing her concerns to the committee. Her mother, Kimberly Gervais, spent her final years in and out of hospitals and treatment centers in Southern California, where she resided.
The county did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the final design’s focus on the number 58.
But over the years, the committee has emphasized that its final design recommendation would be based on public input, gathered through a series of polls and roundtables.
“The most important thing to keep in mind for anyone affected, no matter how affected, is that this process is looking for input to influence the development of the memorial,” said Tennille Pereira, who Chair of the Committee, in 2020 as she addressed the updated death toll at one of the Committee’s first meetings.
The permanent memorial will be separated from a community healing garden planted by more than 1,000 volunteers in downtown Las Vegas in the days after the shooting.