LAS VEGAS – A series of white angel wings rise up from the earth bathed in a warm glow of light, their sweeping forms creating a long covered pathway surrounded by trees in a possible centerpiece for the memorial to modern America's deadliest mass shooting.
It's one of five potential designs unveiled Monday for a permanent monument on the Las Vegas Strip where 58 people were shot and killed and hundreds more injured at a country music festival on Oct. 1, 2017. Two survivors later died from their gunshot wounds.
The memorial honoring victims, survivors and first responders will be built at the site of the massacre.
Renderings of each design are on display through September at the Clark County government center in downtown Las Vegas, marking a major step in an arduous planning process that began more than three years ago and had been stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Survivors Sue Ann Cornwell, Alicia Mierke and Sue Nelson were among the gallery’s first visitors Monday morning. The three women said they had goosebumps when they realized how much of their input had been incorporated into the potential designs: The number 58, representing the initial death toll. Statues of two young horses, representing the dozens of children whose parents were killed. A bar of music notes from the song “God Bless America,” representing unity.
“To see this come to life, I’m in awe,” Mierke said. “It is worth the wait.”
Each of the five potential designs includes a garden element, with trees along walking paths or flower beds framing the memorial. One design showcases 15 horse statues, representing the home states and countries of the victims. Another is centered around a cluster of light poles designed to look like candles, each with photos of a victim.
“These concepts show in vivid detail the power of what this memorial effort means to so many in five unique ways,” Jim Gibson, chairman of the Clark County Commission, said in a statement. Gibson’s district includes the site of the shooting.
Later this month, a committee tasked with planning the memorial will collect public input on the design proposals that they say will help them craft their final plan for a memorial. The committee is set to submit its recommendation to the county commission for approval ahead of the massacre’s sixth anniversary.
“No matter which design concept gets recommended, we can be proud of the process our committee put into place and amazing ideas inspired by it,” Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick said in a statement.
The proposed memorials were put together by different design teams with suggestions from the community gathered in a series of earlier surveys, including one that found a clear majority of respondents wanted the memorial to be built on the same spot as the massacre.
In response, MGM Resorts International donated 2 acres (0.8 hectares) of the 15-acre (6-hectare) venue for the memorial. The casino company recently sold the remaining land to the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation based in central North Dakota.
Kirkpatrick and former Gov. Steve Sisolak formed the planning committee in 2019. It includes a survivor of the shooting and the sister of victim Neysa Tonks, a 46-year-old mother of three from Las Vegas.
The permanent memorial will be separate from a community healing garden in downtown Las Vegas built by more than 1,000 volunteers in the days after the shooting.