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Vegas Strong Resiliency Director in Recovery October 1

Saturday, October 1, marks five years since Nevada was rocked by the largest mass shooting in modern American history. Nearly 60 people died while attending a concert on the Las Vegas Strip on October 1, 2017. Hundreds were injured, and more are suffering emotional trauma and grief.

Lucretia Cunningham of KUNR met with Tennell Pereira, director of the Strong Vegas Center for Resilience in Las Vegas, to find out how the city is recovering.

Lucretia Cunningham: Can you tell me what kind of services are offered at the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center?

Tinel Pereira: We do a lot of information sessions or outreach sessions, and it’s geared towards educating the survivors and our families, as well as the community at large, as well as educating about different types of mental health treatments and then different calming and coping techniques. One that comes to mind is yoga recovery. It’s not traditional yoga, but it’s meant to help people process the trauma we experience in our bodies.

We do a lot of different things just to break down barriers to people getting services. Some people need a lot of hand holding because the trauma is really affecting them, and they struggle to make contact, or sometimes just do these simple things. [like] Pick up the phone and call your mental health provider.

Cunningham: What kind of long-term resources would a person affected by such a tragedy need?

Pereira: Mental health is huge, and that’s where healing takes place. But somehow in the outskirts of their lives, everything can be affected. We see a lot of legal issues arising from that, which people don’t always take into consideration, so we have a fully staffed legal team here.

They are trying to focus and process the trauma. And so other aspects of their lives can be pushed to the side: debt collection, evictions, and labor law issues. I wasn’t expecting as much as we saw because I think you kind of depend on the goodwill of people, including the employers. When there are people who have taken off rosy all of a sudden, after they said, “This kind of situation is hard for me, is there somewhere else you can put me in while I work through this trauma,” then suddenly no timetable is set any more. You know, things like that. I was surprised by that, but we saw it quite a bit in fact.

Cunningham: How have things changed in the way you serve people? Or is the kind of help people need different now than it was when the center first opened?

Pereira: The center was established three weeks after the accident. The Family Help Center was open, I think it was 21 days ago. Then there was the weekend, and the Resilience Center opened to kind of continue this business.

I would say at the beginning, there were a lot, like, requests for spiritual patronage, and we don’t see that much now. I think that was just the cruelty of the trauma, and I think it’s only natural that many of us do, is to turn to this spiritual side of ourselves to find comfort and peace.

contact with other survivors who have experienced it and who may be in a good place; who – which [request] has increased. And there is a lot of strength in this regard, that shared experience. It’s one of the things I constantly hear that is the most effective.

Cunningham: Now that five years have passed, how do you think Las Vegas has recovered since October 1, 2017?

Pereira: One of the things I really like to look at is the evolution of Vegas as a result of this incident. Prior to the accident, we were seen and viewed as this trans community, and I don’t think we’ve really been affected by the way a lot of communities work. But when October happened, I think you saw the real Vegas. I’ve seen everyone come out, you know, share their talents, share their talents, rally around those who have been affected by this. And you know, you’ve seen the generosity, you’ve seen the heart of Vegas, right?

It was really interesting to watch that develop because, as a society, we’ve been traumatized. It was very shocking. You turned on a TV, and then it seemed like the world melted around you, and you couldn’t fathom or make sense of what had happened. Because this, you know, was my community. This is where my kids live and [where] I raise them. These are my people to whom this happened. This is ours – it happened to us.

But there is a lot of healing that has happened in Vegas. I think it changed us in a way that, you know, we’ll never go back. And you know, I think on an individual basis when something like this happens, it changes that person. I also think it changes society.

Tennille Pereira is also chair of the 1 October Memorial Committee, which is working to build a permanent memorial on 1 October.