Memo­rial of crosses at famed Las Ve­gas signs draws thou­sands.

At­mos­phere somber as crosses viewed

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Todd Prince • Con­tact Todd Prince at tprince@re­viewjour­nal.com or 702-383-0386. Fol­low @ tod­dprincetv on Twit­ter.

THOU­SANDS of tourists and lo­cal res­i­dents, car­ry­ing flow­ers, signs and bal­loons, made their way Satur­day af­ter­noon to a memo­rial to re­mem­ber the vic­tims of the Oct. 1 mas­sacre. A slow-mov­ing line about 300 peo­ple deep had formed by 4 p.m. be­hind the “Wel­come to Fab­u­lous Las Ve­gas” sign, where 58 crosses had been placed, one to rep­re­sent each vic­tim. Some peo­ple walked 20 min­utes in the heat; oth­ers parked their cars on the dirt-cov­ered in­ter­sec­tion on Las Ve­gas Boule­vard.

“We brought flow­ers so that we could lay one on every cross,” Las Ve­gas res­i­dent Heather Har­ri­son said, fight­ing back tears. “My fi­ancé and my mother wanted to come down and pay our re­spects to all the peo­ple that were lost in the tragedy.”

The song “See You Again” by Char­lie Puth played on a small black speaker placed be­fore the first cross. The song was in­ter­mixed with the names of the vic­tims and in­ter­views with sur­vivors.

Hun­dreds of yel­low, red, white and orange flow­ers piled up sev­eral inches high in front of each cross. White bal­loons were tied to most crosses and a minia­ture pump­kin placed on the hor­i­zon­tal part.

Vis­i­tors read mes­sages writ­ten on the crosses. “We will miss you so much” was writ­ten twice on An­drea Castilla’s cross as was a mes­sage in Span­ish.

In the fore­ground, Man­dalay Bay, from where the shooter un­loaded thou­sands of bul­lets, rose high, gleam­ing in the sun’s rays. Black bill­boards read­ing “Ve­gas Strong,” “Ve­gas To­gether” and “Ve­gas Re­silient” ran along the street south to­ward the ho­tel-casino.

Stephine Peti­toescamilla came with her daugh­ter, who car­ried flow­ers, Satur­day af­ter­noon.

“I am born and raised here; I am just show­ing that we are strong,” Peti­toescamilla said, chok­ing back tears as she spoke.

Pence de­par­ture

The crowds swelled later in the day after Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence de­parted McCar­ran air­port at 2:20 p.m. The po­lice had blocked road traf­fic along Las Ve­gas Boule­vard near the memo­rial be­fore his flight.

The long lines and crowds con­tin­ued into the evening.

Some peo­ple came not just to pay their re­spects, but to take their por­traits. Some peo­ple posed with smiles wide on their faces and their fin­gers pointed aloft or curled into heart signs.

Yara Dia­mantino, 24, and her friend Maria Perez, both of Spain, toted their lug­gage and back­packs to the sign to take pho­tos be­fore de­part­ing for San Francisco.

The pair re­cently fin­ished their sum­mer work and travel pro­gram in the United States and are vis­it­ing a few cities be­fore re­turn­ing home.

Dia­mantino said she also wanted to see the memo­rial after snap­ping pho­tos of the sign, but that her friend would not join her.

“She is very sen­si­tive,” Dia­mantino said of her friend.

Be­hind them and the sign stood the crosses, en­veloped in a solemn at­mos­phere. As hap­pens at ground zero in New York on the an­niver­sary

of the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror at­tacks, some peo­ple found Satur­day’s self­ies dis­re­spect­ful.

One man in his 30s, sport­ing a cut on his closely shaved head, sat alone near the sign, smok­ing a cig­a­rette. He shouted a few times at the crowd that this was no place to be smil­ing for pho­tos.

After his out­burst, he dropped his head to­ward his knees as he tried to hold back the tears welling in his eyes.

Tif­fani McMur­ray came with seven other friends to pay their re­spects and lay flow­ers at the crosses.

“I think it is awe­some that this line is crazy (long),” she said. “It just shows that hate go­ing on in the world won’t win.”

Chase Stevens Las Ve­gas Re­view-Jour­nal

Peo­ple visit a makeshift memo­rial for vic­tims of Sun­day’s mass shoot­ing on Satur­day near the “Wel­come to Fab­u­lous Las Ve­gas” sign.

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