The Convention Center is where the families who do not find their loved ones come.
A man walks in a parking lot looking at the ground and stops to say, “I have not heard from my wife since yesterday.” Robert Peterson had been in Las Vegas since 11 a.m. on Monday, and at 4 p.m., he still did not know where his wife was. The last time hey saw her she was at the concert that was attacked on Sunday night by a man who fired several gunshot rounds from a hotel. There are at least 59 dead and more than 500 injured. Peterson needs to know in which group his wife is. For that reason, on Monday he went to a pavilion at the Convention Center where all of the services for victims are being centralized.
Robert is with a friend who was at the concert with Robert’s wife and three other friends. He relates that the shooting started and each of them tried to get as safe as they could. At some point, they saw her unconscious; somebody tried to resuscitate her. Then the shooting started again and they all ran. They met at the entrance of the Tropicana Hotel, where they were staying, but not Lisa. His wife would have called him if she were all right, Peterson says. “Her mobile phone has a GPS tracker. We know it is in the middle of the Strip,” the main street in Las Vegas.
Emergency services and the county medical examiner's office decided on Monday to bring together the information about the missing, injured and dead and collect it at the southern pavilion of the Las Vegas Convention Center, north of the city. With a fence at the door and a sign saying “Family Assistance Center,” the place became a kind of ground zero of pain or hope, where hundreds of families of victims must arrive as they land in Las Vegas to find out what has happened to their loved ones. This is the place to come to when neither the hospitals nor the medical examiner´s office have answers.
The Peterson family is from Alameda, California. “No one tells me anything,” Peterson despaired. “Everybody asks me for my name and my telephone number, but nobody calls. I do not know what they are doing. I am losing hope. I think she is dead.” In the morning he had been told she could be in the hospital. That was not the case. He went through five hospitals before coming back here. Next to him is a teenager, one of the couple’s three children. His voice breaks when he says that the youngest is only 8 years old. “She knows nothing. I do not know what to tell her.”
At noon on Monday, the entrance to the pavilion was a parade of emotions from worry to crying. In between, groups of people, mainly young, came to volunteer. There was already so much help that workers took the volunteers’ contact details and then made them leave, as they said. Through a side door of the Convention Center, a line of cars lined up to deliver donations of all kinds. The city of Las Vegas is completely dedicated to assisting the victims and their families. The particular nature of the city means the victims are from everywhere, they are not just locals.
The fleeting conversations with the families coming and going gave an idea of the days of pain that remain after the massacre. For many, the search has just started. Others just want to finish with paperwork and get out of here. “My case is special,” said a woman with great fortitude. She does not need identification. “I was with my husband when he died.”