Victims Of The Las Vegas Shooting Are Still Trying To Get Assistance
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas last October was the single deadliest in modern American history. Fifty-eight people were killed. More than 500 were wounded. But the fund set up to collect and distribute donations to survivors and to families of the victims is falling short compared to the response in other tragedies. NPR's Leila Fadel has our report.
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: When a bombing went through the Boston Marathon killing three and wounding more than 200, some $80 million was later distributed from their victims fund. In Orlando when a gunman opened fire at a nightclub killing 49 people, upwards of $29 million was donated. But the Las Vegas Victims Fund just isn't getting the same amount of money even though the shooting affected so many more lives.
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FADEL: Some 24,000 people were present for the terrifying shooting spree.
CHRISTINE CARIA: And it was really cool 'cause, like, I'd never done a - this is us setting up. That's Heather.
FADEL: That's Christine Caria showing me pictures and videos she took earlier that day on her phone. She was having so much fun. She was working at her friend Heather Sallan's booth, selling cowboy boot accessories.
CARIA: This is Kurt Von Tillo. He passed.
FADEL: She's looking at a picture of a man smiling. He was later killed. That night, Caria saw people get shot. She was trampled by a crowd, separated from her friend, Sallan, who also witnessed unforgettable carnage. It's changed the two women's lives forever. But Caria and Sallan won't get anything from the victims fund unlike in Orlando, where anyone who was in the club and applied to the fund received something to help with the trauma.
CARIA: You know, it's been really hard on the whole family, you know? And like, I have really, really horrible night terrors where I wake up the whole entire family.
FADEL: We sit in her backyard after a day of doctor appointments. She got a cortisone shot in her back, injured from people stepping on her. Last week she had a seizure because of the medication she was taking for her pain, and now even her memory has suffered at least temporarily.
CARIA: It feels like Alzheimer's - is what it feels like.
FADEL: She can't work. Doctors told her she can't drive for three months. And the reason Caria doesn't qualify for the fund is she didn't get treatment for her injuries right away, and there just isn't enough money to go to the thousands of people suffering psychological trauma.
So far, the fund has just upwards of $22 million, about a quarter of what was ultimately given out in Boston. Right now the top priority is the families of the dead and the catastrophically injured. Scott Nielson is the chairman of the committee that decides how to distribute the funds.
SCOTT NIELSON: I think we're a little bit unfortunate because there were hurricanes before this event. And then right after that were the fires in Northern California. And I think people's attention was, you know, diverted from one to the next to the next. And those were big catastrophes.
FADEL: Think about it. Before the shooting, there was Hurricane Harvey that flooded Houston, then Irma in Florida, then Maria that devastated Puerto Rico. Right after the Las Vegas shooting, there were the fires in California, then a mass shooting in a Texas church, then more fires and mudslides in California. Nielson and the committee had to make hard decisions.
NIELSON: The number of people who could claim an emotional trauma from this is a giant number.
FADEL: The committee's taking applications through the end of the month and are urging donors to give by then, too, so they know how much money they have to give out. But the fund won't close. Caria thinks there needs to be a national response and solution.
CARIA: Eighty-seven children lost their parents. Twenty-two million dollars is not enough money to take care of them.
FADEL: Since the incident, she and Sallan have started support groups. They both opened chapters of the Brady Campaign for the prevention of gun violence. I reached Sallan in Reno by phone. She's shutting down her boots accessories company because setting up the booth at festivals is traumatic.
HEATHER SALLAN: I believe that anywhere I go, something horrendously catastrophic like that can happen.
FADEL: Country music is another trigger, and she says she's no longer the take-charge woman she once was. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Las Vegas.
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