LAS VEGAS — From high above the Las Vegas Strip, the scene of last week’s terror was flecked with color. Spots of yellow, blue, white and red dotted the field of the Route 91 Harvest country music festival — a patchwork of phones, clothes, purses, lawn chairs and other belongings 22,000 concertgoers left behind as they ran for their lives.
“After this incident, one of the most striking visuals, in addition to the absolute carnage, was the sheer amount of items left behind from those fleeing,” Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Under Sheriff Kevin McMahill said. Stephen Paddock, the gunman, killed 58 people and injured hundreds more from his position high up in a Mandalay Bay hotel suite.
By Sunday, seven truckloads of belongings had been shipped to a convention center here ready for concertgoers to claim. Several more truckloads are expected in the days ahead.
For many, collecting their mundane things was a way to move on and also offered mementos of survival. Several showed up still wearing their concert wristbands or were donning concert tees and cowboy boots.
Janale Clark, 37, went to the Family Assistance Center on Sunday to collect her mother’s purse, a black Chanel bag filled with keys, credit cards, identification cards and money. Bingham had worried all week that the FBI would keep the purse or that it would be stained and trampled from the chaos.
“Something inside me felt good about just getting her stuff,” Clark said after successfully retrieving it. “We barely just got the car back two days ago. It’s a relief. It’s like we’re getting somewhere.”
Clark’s mother was working at the festival on Oct. 1. Clark had stopped by the concert to see her and enjoy the festivities, but the second Clark stepped into the parking lot, she heard gunshots. While sprinting away, Clark called her mother and heard her panting as she, too, ran. She warned her daughter to stay away.
“It was just like a catastrophe,” Clark said. “I heard her and just saw everyone screaming and running and yelling.”
Clark and her mother escaped, uninjured.
Though she is a “nervous wreck,” rattled when she watches the news or hears sudden noises, Clark said she wants to keep items that remind her of the concert: her mother’s green festival wristband, the purse.
It might be “weird,” but she says it is helping her move forward.
“What comforts me and makes me feel good may make another person feel scared and awkward,” Clark said. “But it comforts me to keep these things.”
Authorities have set up an intricate process to help identify items or match items to their owners. Those who are from out of town can fill out a form describing what they left behind to coordinate getting their things back with the help of the FBI.
Shana Bingham, 27, had tried to recover her belongings Sunday but was told they weren’t available to be released yet. Bingham had been a bartender at the festival and was getting ready to pour a drink when she heard screams and saw people diving under tables for cover.
Since then, she has been missing her driver’s license and work cards that give her permission to serve alcohol in Las Vegas.
If for some reason she can’t get the studded, leather bag she bought as a memento from a trip to Italy, Bingham isn’t too worried. She reminds herself that she escaped with the one thing that can’t be replaced.
“I’m alive,” Bingham said. “It’s definitely been a roller coaster, but I’m blessed to be alive.”
She hopes to get her purse back soon, but she said that even without it, she has a souvenir she plans to keep indefinitely: One week after the shooting, Bingham still wore the black-and-white, high-top sneakers that carried her out of the gunfire.
Surrounded by frantic concertgoers who started trampling each other as they fled, Bingham decided she had to get out from behind the bar and run. She wound up in a warehouse in a dirt lot across the street and hid with others in an office behind a couch until 4 a.m.
The shoes are a reminder of heartbreak and hope.
“It was really sad just looking at them,” Bingham said about slipping the dusty shoes back on after the shooting. “But I ran and I was saved.”