Downtown’s new memorial garden serves as an emotional focal point

Downtown’s Healing Garden will serve as a permanent memorial to the victims of the the October 1 mass shooting.
Photo: Wade Vandervort

Hundreds gathered for a vigil and ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday night at the Arts District’s new Healing Garden, a memorial for those who died at the October 1 Route 91 Harvest festival shooting.

Among the community members was a furrier group of observers, a pack of K-9 comfort dogs from Lutheran Church Charities who sat calmly within the crowd, offering solace to all who needed it. I crouched next to one of the them, running my fingers through its plush coat, his presence a warm reminder of the good left in the world.

As I began to walk away, I locked eyes with one of the dog handlers. “Have you pet Kye?” she asked. I knelt down to pet the dog, then asked the woman her name. It was the same as my grandmother’s. “Consider that a hug from your grandma,” she said as she wrapped her arms around me.

That wasn’t the only unusual, magical, thing that happened in the garden, which had been constructed throughout the week by Stonerose Landscapes owner Jay Pleggenkuhle and a team of more than 300 volunteers. Mark Hamelmann, of Sunworld Construction and Landscape, told the story of the moment he knew where to plant the park’s focal point, an oak tree named the Tree of Life.

“I saw something shiny on the ground,” Hamelmann said, “and it’s incredible what I found.” He picked it up—a necklace with tree pendant hanging from its chain. Where that charm was found, the tree now stands.

That kind of energy filled the air as people exchanged their heartfelt stories. “Our main intent was to bring people together,” Pleggenkuhle said. “The garden may not be perfect, but in my opinion it is.”

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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