Route 91 survivors moving forward one year later
MOHAVE VALLEY — It has been one year — to the day — since the Route 91 Harvest Festival country music concert in Las Vegas abruptly turned into a bloody massacre.
Mohave County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Sammut, 47, and his sister Gina Sammut Turner, 41, and her husband, Paul Turner, 57, who reside in Las Vegas, attended the shows Sept. 29 through Oct. 1.
Their fun suddenly turned into terror during the final night of the event.
A gunman opened fire on the outdoor festival crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, across Las Vegas Boulevard, during the closing performance by singer Jason Aldean.
The gunman, Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada., was found dead in his hotel room with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Paddock’s shooting spree resulted in 59 fatalities and 530 injuries.
Fortunately for Sammut and the Turners, they survived, and the three of them expressed their thoughts at River Valley High School’s Homecoming football game Friday night, 362 days after the massacre.
“I don’t think about it as much as when it first happened,” Sammut said. “I know we were fortunate, and I just keep living.
“The thing is that it can happen — anything can happen any given day. You just take things with it and just go.”
Sammut reflected more before further sharing his mindset.
“Like I told you last year, the thing that I was most worried about was my sister (more) than even myself when the situation was going on,” Sammut said. “I’m thankful that I was able to get out of there, and a lot of my friends who were there were able to get out of there.
“I just feel sad for the families who weren’t able to (escape) when the incident occurred, too. I also met some good people who also got out of there.”
Sammut said he has found several support groups on Facebook, which has been helpful to the victims.
The Turners came down Friday night from Las Vegas to watch the game, which is where they discussed how the massacre aftermath has influenced them.
While the intensity of the flashbacks are not as strong as when it first happened, the Turners still experience them — at a lesser degree — months later
“We do,” said Gina Turner about the nightmares and flashbacks. “Just like it was yesterday.”
When asked if the nightmares occur as often now as they did during the first few months, Gina Turner said, “I would say yes, but certain things bring it right back around full circle and you feel like you’re right there again.
“You watch a video, you hear a sound that sounds similar, (and) it brings you right back to that spot at that same moment.”
Gina Turner said she had several nightmares right after the massacre, but not so much now.
After having one year to reflect upon the massacre, she said there are questions that still persist like: “Why? Why us that night?
“It was just the same as every year prior to (last year). We had gone every year and for what reason? That’s all; that’s the only questions I have in my head: ‘Why?’ What was the purpose of all of that? So many people lost their lives. ...”
While the nightmares and flashbacks have subsided, there remain many unanswered questions, which has left the Turners and other victims frustrated with law enforcement’s investigation into the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
Paul Turner, who was born and raised in Las Vegas, said he and his wife of eight years discussed the investigation “just the other day.”
“There hasn’t been any definitive answer, and there has been nothing about why did he do it?” Paul Turner said.
Gina Turner added: “I don’t think anybody will ever know that.”
“All I know is that I figure life is precious and I enjoy every day since then,” Paul Turner said. “We’re going to live life regardless — even more so — and enjoy our time together.”