Immigrants who worked Route 91 thankful for groups that stepped up in aftermath

vigil
Bryan Gutierrez, 17, hugs his mom during a vigil honoring the victims and survivors of the Oct. 1st mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. (Photo courtesy of Make the Road Nevada.)

Tuesday marked two years since 58 people were killed and hundreds of others wounded in the deadliest shooting in modern American history.

Among the victims was a group of immigrants working at the festival that night, who have often felt overlooked in the aftermath of the shooting. On Tuesday Make the Road Nevada and Silver State Health Services hosted a day of self-care for the group of survivors, followed by a vigil to remember those who were killed.

“Two years later and we’re still here together,” said Leo Murrieta the director of Make the Road Nevada, an immigrants right’s group, before reading through the list of victims killed in the shooting. “It’s a long list. Fifty-eight people died because of the hateful actions of one man.”

The group of survivors said that after the shooting they were rejected by mental health services provided by the city that were available to the rest of the survivors, due to language barriers. 

Bilingual Behavior Services (BBS), which was recently acquired by the nonprofit community health center Silver State Health in order to expand its mental health and primary care services, stepped in to provide therapy to survivors pro-bono.

“As I understand, Make the Road and BBS were some of the first groups to be there in the wake of this tragedy,” said Ryan Linden the CEO and executive director of Silver State Health at the event. “I’m so fortunate and blessed to be part of an organization and to work with similar organizations whose core mission is to serve the community.”

At the event it was announced that United Way has awarded Silver State Health Services a grant to continue therapy services in Spanish for the victims of the Oct. 1st mass shooting for two more years.

“Every person heals at their own pace,” said Margarita Romano, a therapist for Silver State Health Services. “For everyone who was affected, it’s important that we support each other.”

Juan Carlos Szwed is one of the immigrants who worked the night of the Route 91 concert. During the vigil, he thanked BBS and Make the Road Nevada for their support throughout the last two years.

“I’ve continued therapy and it’s helped a lot,” Szwed said, in his native Spanish. “I thought I had recovered but I hadn’t.”

“I can’t forget this, it’s very painful for me,” Szwed said. “I’ve gone through a lot of hardship but watching so many people suffer and so many people get injured and die, at first it didn’t affect me, but after two or three months I went into a deep depression.”

Szwed said while he did not suffer any gunshot wounds his coworker near him had, leaving Szwed with profound emotional trauma. 

From a deep red velvet bag Szwed pulled out a plaque given to him by the City of Las Vegas to honor his heroic actions on the night of the shooting as he helped concert goers find shelter. 

“This is in honor of everyone who’s gone and for all of you,” he said, his voice cracking towards the end.

Jose Martinez, who also worked the Route 91 concert, didn’t get to see his three children for a full 24 hours following the shooting.

“When I get home and saw my kids I reflected,” Martinez said, in Spanish. “This is an opportunity to be a better person.”

#VegasStrong
Jose Martinez and others wear shirts with Las Vegas rallying cry #VegasStrong during a vigil honoring the victims and survivors of the Oct. 1st mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. (Photo courtesy of Make the Road Nevada.)

Maritza King Gutierrez also spoke at the vigil and is one of a number of immigrants workers who applied for a U-visa after the shooting. A U-Visa lets victims of crimes who meet certain requirements stay in the United States. Holders of a U-Visa can legally live in the U.S. for four years. After three years of having a U-Visa a person can apply for a green card to stay in the U.S permanently.

“When that happened, we became a family,” Gutierrez said, in Spanish. “I’m so happy you are all here and I hope next year we’re together again.”

Bryan Gutierrez, 17, was one of the youngest undocumented survivors of the Oct. 1st mass shooting. The concert was Gutierrez’s first job as he worked to help his family financially. 

“That night I didn’t sleep at all. I just cried and I was shaking and I couldn’t process what I was going through,”  Gutierrez said, struggling through his speech. “I didn’t want to be around big crowds, and to this day I still have a fear of loud noises and fireworks. It’s been two year and I still have a fear of it happening again.”

Gutierrez, a DACA student, said he was grateful for the year of counseling services he got from BBS, which helped him through his most difficult moments.

The parents of Erick Silva — a security guard stationed at the front of the stage during the Route 91 Harvest music festival before he was killed—  attended the event to honor their son. They wore t-shirts picturing him along with the words “Our Hero Forever.”

Silva died helping concertgoers over a barricade to escape through an exit on the other side of the stage.

Silva’s mother, Angelica Cervantes, said Silva helped save 7 people, some of whom have gone on to have children.

“And one was named after Erick,” Cervantes said in Spanish with a smile.

Murrieta, the director of Make the Road Nevada, said despite the barriers the group of immigrant survivors faced during the Oct. 1st tragedy, and continue to face, they have not given up, making them examples of the best of the Las Vegas community.

“For us, in the immigrant community every day can feel like a new terror,” Murrieta said. “But if we are together and united there’s no one who can get in our way. No sheriff, no department of immigration, no hateful government.”

“When the first U-vistas come in we’re going to throw a party. When the first work visas come in we are going to throw a party,” Murrieta said. “Not everyone is going to win but our community has spoken — that we as immigrants deserve respect and justice.”

Jeniffer Solis
Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.

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