Vegas massacre survivors gather for therapy group

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- InCahoots Dance Hall and Saloon in Mission Valley is usually packed with country music lovers  line dancing, two stepping and always having a great time.

But on Monday nights, the dance floor is cleared out. The atmosphere goes from being country to cathartic. 

"I thank God for this group," said Lisa Como. 

Como is a member of a unique group. They all survived the massacre at Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas last October. 

The group estimates there are roughly 300 survivors across San Diego County and Temecula. They gather weekly to share their flashbacks and their fears. 

"All I remember, was thinking I just don't want to get shot in the back," said Como. "I just don't want to get shot in the back."

Delanie Leone says people started dropping all around her. 

"We knew it was gunshots because the lady in front of us was shot and went down immediately. I'm not a nurse, I'm not an EMT. I just went into crisis mode," said Leone. 

Como said memories from that awful night haunt her every day. 

"I was driving down the road and I looked over at a car and I was like, oh my God, he could start shooting at me right now, and then I realized she had the same thoughts," said Como. 

A clinical psychologist for the navy leads the group in their healing and recovery. 

Dr Shiva Ghaed has spent decades treating veterans who suffer from PTSD.  She knew there would be countless survivors who are also vets. 

"Country music it appeals to, it's military heavy. I was really heartbroken thinking about the fact that this massacre happened to a group of people that are already previously exposed to an increased amount of trauma." said Dr. Ghaed. "I knew there would be thousands, and thousands and thousands and thousands of people that would have invisible injuries."

She knows just how much those invisible injuries can hurt. She is also a survivor of the massacre.

"Honest to God, I don't know how I lived because I was in the kill zone, I was in the line of fire," said Dr. Ghaed. "People all around me were shot and killed and I just had to find some purpose and meaning in surviving that."  

She's finding much of that purpose by leading the weekly therapy groups.  

"I really think that that's how you make it a better world. If everybody steps up when they can, in the way that they can, and gives back it can be a better world," said Dr. Ghaed. 

Taylor Winston is a San Diego Marine who also lived through the shooting rampage. He made national headlines when he grabbed a truck and drove into the gunfire to save dozens of victims. 

Winston helped start the weekly support groups. 

"It means a lot to me to leverage whatever short term fame I was given throughout the whole massacre to put Shiva in front of people," said Winston. 

As people begin to emotionally heal, they're beginning to question the events of that night. 

"A lot of people are feeling left in the dark with the media moving on and kind of forgetting about us and just kind of seeing lack of security in the hotel," said Winston. "Just trying to prevent something similar from happening in the future."

None of the survivors in this particular group have filed a lawsuit, but they are beginning to consider it.

"I don't think anyone is trying to get money out of it for any personal gain, but at the end of the day so many people were mentally affected by this, they've lost jobs, they've lost scholarships and sad to say people need money to stay afloat," said Winston. 

Recently, a new group calling itself Vegas Protest 4 Truth held a protest outside the Las Vegas Police Department's headquarters. 

The group wants the audio of the 911 calls to be released, along with all surveillance footage and body cam video related to the October 1st shooting that killed at least 58 people and wounded hundreds.  

They're also demanding the release of search warrant findings and sealed court documents. 

"With such little information, everyone's mind is going to wander and think conspiracy and that's honestly a fair thought for a lot of people," said Winston. "A lot of it doesn't make sense and people are starting to recover and get mentally strong and ask questions." 

Right now, their focus remains on recovery. San Diego survivors are working with survivors across the country to help them start similar support groups. 

"I think of country strong as this, I see the faces. I see the strength that we've come up together," said Jason Zabala.

More information about the local survivors group can be found here:  route91sd.com

 

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