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Vegas Shooting Survivor On Healing After Terror

A blond woman in a black dress and white sweater stands smiling next to a tree.
Holly Hutchings
Kristine Richter says the events of October 1, 2017 have stayed with her, but time and therapy have softened their impact.

October 1 marks the first anniversary of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, the deadliest in American history. Many Northern Nevadans were there and have spent the last year feeling the effects of that tragic night. Kristine Richter and her husband were at the Route 91 Harvest Festival for her birthday when celebration turned to horror. She talked with KUNR's Holly Hutchings about surviving that night and learning to live in its aftermath.

Kristine Richter was celebrating her 40th birthday in Las Vegas with her husband and best friends. The group was enjoying a weekend of live country music and friendship when their happiness turned to horror. At 10:05 Sunday night, shots began ringing out, spraying the ground where they stood. Richter initially thought the booming noises were fireworks but quickly realized they were gunshots. Her husband had gone to the restroom, but she and her friends knew they had to run.

The group of three fled, Richter not knowing if she would see her husband again. As they made their way north through the outdoor venue, Richter could see bullets peppering the ground behind her friend’s feet as she ran. In the chaos, Richter’s friend also became separated, leaving Richter and her friend’s husband unsure of their spouses’ whereabouts and condition. They all ultimately made it to safety and reconnected after hours of terror.

The twelve months that have elapsed since the tragic turning point day have been what Richter calls a rollercoaster. She was shaken and feeling the emerging pangs of PTSD. She knew that she needed professional help and enlisted a counselor that specializes in EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

Over the course of the year, the treatment has been lessening the PTSD that has plagued her, but there are still many things she can’t do because of the residual fears and feelings from that night. She says she feels her kids miss out on things because of it.

“There’s certain things that I haven’t been able to do, like go to a haunted house, go anywhere in public where it’s really busy because I can’t handle people pushing me from behind, or being surprised or startled," she said. "I can’t be around fireworks, so my kids kind of missed out on the Fourth of July and all that fun. There’s that side of me that feels really guilty, like they’re probably missing out on some things, but I think they’ve learned a lot about empathy and being kind and helping others." 

Richter says seeing the ongoing news coverage of the event, especially with the first anniversary, has been challenging. However, she says it illustrates that the indelible event that scarred her life has also lasted in the memories of so many others.

“A lot of times it brings up anger, frustration, avoidance. There’s all these different characteristics, and if people could just continue to realize that we’re still going through this," she said. "We’re still healing. I don’t think it’s something you can heal from in a year.”

Two hands are resting with palms facing. The top hand exposes a wedding ring and another simple gold band on the middle finger. That ring has the word, "courage" etched into it.
Credit Holly Hutchings
After the Vegas shooting, Kristine Richter's mother gave her a ring that says, "courage." She wears the gold band on her middle finger as a constant reminder of her strength and abilities to endure trials.

Richter says she doesn’t know if she and other survivors can ever get past the experiences they lived through that night. As a reminder of how far she has come, however, she wears a ring, given to her by her mother. The simple gold band has the word, “courage” etched into it. Richter says it’s a reminder that she is strong enough to keep surviving.

Holly Hutchings is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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