Vegas massacre survivors mark anniversary with difficulty

Two Petaluma women, survivors of the Las Vegas massacre, are marking the two-year anniversary with difficulty.   

"It's still there, like it happened yesterday," said Kim Schubert.

"The past few days have been really hard," added Jennifer McGrath. 

They still have the wristbands that admitted them to the Route 91 country music festival.

They still have the trauma as well. 

"It's never going to go away, our lives are completely changed," said Schubert, "because we left a part of ourselves on that field." 

The two were accompanied by Schubert's fiancee and McGrath's husband, who also escaped uninjured. 

The two couples were having a great time at the Oct. 1, 2017 concert, until bullets rained down on the crowd from above. 

A total of 58 people were killed and more than 800 wounded or injured in the carnage. 
Soon after their return home, the women spoke to KTVU, describing how the two couples tried to help those falling around them. 

"I remember just waiting to die, there was no question for me we would die," said an emotional McGrath at the time. 

On the one-year anniversary, they traveled to Las Vegas to take part in memorial ceremonies. 

As the second anniversary approached, they realized their struggle has deepened over time, because the initial shock has fallen away. 

"I didn't remember holding Kim's hand that night, but I remember that now," said McGrath. 

They are in therapy, working through their memories and emotions.    

"When I saw people in wheelbarrows I remember thinking, 'where did the wheelbarrow come from?', not 'why are there bodies in it?' because my mind couldn't process that," mused McGrath.   
The best friends are also hyper-alert to potential danger. 

"I'm still me, I still go to concerts, I still enjoy myself, but it's with so much fear now," said Schubert. 

Any noise or commotion, even harmless, can trigger a response. 

"What do I need to do, where do I need to go, where's my family, my friend, where's the exit, so my brain is constantly scanning," said Schubert. 

For survivors, answers have been elusive. 

The FBI never determined the gunman's motive.   

"There's evil in the world and it's going to come," said McGrath. "I don't think there's any explanation that would have made us feel better."

The shooter had two dozen assault weapons in his 32nd floor room, though, and the women agree hotel management should have paid more attention.

On Thursday, MGM Grand, which owns the Mandalay Bay Hotel, agreed to pay up to $800 million in claims by survivors and the families of those killed. 

McGrath and Schubert are not involved in any litigation.

"There is some accountability there, the hotel is not innocent," said McGrath, "but the important thing is that people get the help they need." 

Since the ordeal, the women have become business partners, in real estate. 

Their children keep them busy, too. 

And they will love country music, although it makes them cry. 

"I couldn't stop, just bawled and bawled and bawled," said McGrath, describing a recent concert. 

Nonetheless, she plans to travel to Las Vegas in December to see Jason Aldean, the same artist who was performing when the attack happened. 

She considers it a personal milestone. 

"I feel like every survivor should try to face that again, because there's a conclusion." 

The pair are members of a loose support group, 20,000 strong, and connect with other survivors online.

The also have matching tattoos on their forearms: hearts intertwined with a message.     

"Strength is what we gain from the madness we survive," read McGrath. 

The massacre remains the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.