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#GrizzlyStrong: Students donate money, blood to Route 91 victims

Nearly two weeks after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, the Spring Valley community is still coping with its effects after 58 were killed and more than 500 were wounded.

The shooting, which took place at the Route 91 country music festival, is only six miles from school grounds. But the Grizzly community has come together to show support for the victims and their families in the days following the event. Faculty and students donated blood, money, and time to help those impacted by the tragedy.

As of October 9, Spring Valley raised $1,336.50 for the victims, and has encouraged others to continue donating.

“We wanted to be as supportive as we could,” said Principal Tam Larnerd. “To make sure kids knew they were safe here. We wanted to make sure they knew this is a safe place for them.”

English teacher Jenna Tullis, who attended the Route 91 festival, said that in the moment it seemed too scary to really be happening.

“We didn’t realize until maybe the third or fourth round of shots that there were actually bullets flying,” Tullis said. “I thought it was a prank they were doing on the concert, and I didn’t realize until we started seeing people get shot that it was real.”   

The shooter, later identified as Stephen Paddock from Mesquite, was located on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino. Paddock was out of sight to many concertgoers, who didn’t initially understand what was going on.

“It was a lot of commotion and chaos. It’s something you never think you’re going to see in life and it’s something you never prepare for, “ Tullis said. “I was really numb for the first 24 hours. I knew it happened, but I couldn’t believe it happened. Once it hit me, I felt a lot of survivor’s guilt. You just don’t understand why someone three feet from you is instantly killed and you make it.”   

Since then, investigators have yet to find Paddock’s motive, but have found 23 firearms in his homes and an additional 24 in his hotel room.

More than a week after the shooting, investigations are still taking place as life in the Las Vegas Valley slowly starts to resume.     

In addition to Tullis, some Spring Valley students were at the event, or nearby, when the shooting occurred.

Senior Eyobel Kadsa said he recalls hearing the shots fired, but not making the connection to what it was until he was running for his life.

“At first I thought it was speakers popping,” Kadsa said. “When we finally found out it was gunshots, it’s your instinct it to try to escape.”

In light of Sunday’s tragedy, Student Council advisor Amy Langhorst and Principal Larnerd worked together to support those effected. Students honored the city by wearing all Nevada gear on Oct. 5, and collected donations on Oct. 7 for those impacted.

Many students and teachers also donated their time and efforts outside of school to honor the victims and first responders.

Adriana Herrera, a junior at Spring Valley, housed three people in her home on the night of the shooting because they had no where else to go.

“You have to put yourself in other people’s shoes,” Herrera said. “Putting myself in their shoes I would want someone to house me if I had nowhere  else to go. They just didn’t seem okay, so I assumed having them stay overnight was the best thing to do.”   

Senior Samerwit Tibebu, who was working at the venue that night, left the concert just moments before the shooting started.

“It was surreal that we made it out before it happened,” said Tebebu. “ I was surprised. I told my mom to pick me up at 11 but out of nowhere I told her to pick me up earlier.”

The day following the shooting, administration took action. Counselors were available to students and faculty, and absences across the district were excused.

Even though counseling was available, many students and faculty members said campus felt quiet and somber.

“There was just a haze and I just couldn’t wait for the day to end,” said Larnerd. “And I met with the faculty in the morning and here I’m the principal asking them to stay strong and calm, and I could barely get the words out without crying myself. All of the adults had to do their best efforts to stay strong. I called it strong, calm, and teach on.”

English teacher Amy Devaul agreed, noting that she was devastated that another mass shooting had occurred in the country.

“As a teacher I’ve helped students work through the Virginia Tech shooting, Columbine, Oklahoma City, you name it,” said Devaul. “And I can’t believe we are going through this again. It was very subdued, very quiet. It’s emotional. It’s hard as a teacher. You don’t want to fall apart in front of your class.”

Following the massacre, many students and faculty members said they donated blood to help the victims.

“I’m a universal donor; I feel it’s my responsibility.” said Devaul, “It’s not just the immediate need, it’s the long term. It’s literally donating life. And if we don’t have it, it’s the difference between life and death.”     

Freshman Christine Cornell said she waited seven hours to donate blood, after seeing others get involved and realized the importance.

“Seeing how many people from the community that did it (donate blood) it encouraged me to do it. Others should donate because it’s for a good cause.” said Cornell.

Besides blood drives being held throughout the Las Vegas Valley, a GoFundme page was set up by Steve Sisolak, Clark County Commissioner Chair, to help the victims and their families. As of October 9, the page has raised more than $10 million for the victims.

In the spirit of unity and support for all those affected, and to show appreciation for the first responders at the scene, Larnerd passed out American Flags to be waived at the October 6 football game against the Bonanza Bengals.

“This week has really been a week of unity and coming together,” Larnerd said. “It’s not just Vegas that got hit in the face,  but all of us throughout the country and the world felt that hit. I wanted to try something to promote unity and support for our first responders that were insanely brave on Sunday night; but they’re brave everyday.”

Prior to the game’s kickoff, many players on the team kneeled to say a prayer for the victims.

“We say a prayer before each game that we all will have strength, but also that no matter what we will have comfort,” said wide reciever Kash Jenkins. “No matter what you believe, everyone needs some type of comfort while going through the tough times life throws at you. Especially after this shooting it really opened my eyes on who those people are in my life and I’m grateful to say that I know every one of those guys have my back.”

Linebacker Victor Aguilera agreed, stating that the team was saddened by the events, but it looked at it as an opportunity to come together.

“The shooting in our city has honestly brought us closer as a team and as a family,” Aguilera said. “It made us realize that we can’t take anything for granted and nothing is ever certain In this world. This prayer was for all those affected in the shooting. ”

Despite the tragedy, many agreed that the best way to move forward was to stay positive and give to those in need.

“I’m trying to not let it affect my life and be worried about what could happen to you,” said Tullis. “I think when it’s your time, it’s your time; and don’t live in fear keep living your life.”

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