Nearly 5 Years After Route 91 Harvest Festival Was Filmed, Peer Support Group Offers Help

June 24 – Trauma comes in waves and strikes different people at different times, clinicians say.

That’s why nearly five years after the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting, the nonprofit Give an Hour held its first in-person peer support group in Bakersfield on Thursday for survivors and members of their family at the Larry E. Reider Education Center.

“The idea is to get together and have them tell their stories because that’s part of the healing process,” said Shane Meserve of Give an Hour. “To say… Where was I then? How am I different now? How did I manage to get through the last five years successfully?”

A lone gunman, Stephen Paddock, 64, fired thousands of shots into a crowd on the final day of the three-day Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas. He committed suicide before the police apprehended him.

Four people with Kern County ties – Bailey Schweitzer, 20, Jack Beaton, 54, and Kelsey Meadows, 28, and Victor Link, 55, who grew up in Shafter – have died as a result of the shooting . An estimated 534 tickets were sold to residents of Kern and hundreds from Bakersfield attended Jason Aldean’s concert before gunfire broke out. Approximately $100,000 was paid to Kern County victims by the California Victims Compensation Board, according to The Californian’s earlier report.

Give an Hour sought to bring comfort to those experiencing trauma years later in a place with other like-minded people. Family members who have lost someone or have a survivor of the shooting were also invited to share.

The event allowed many to tell their story of Oct. 1, 2017, the day of the attack, Give an Hour’s Meserve told The Californian ahead of the event. Journalists were not invited to the event to protect the privacy of attendees.

Telling their story allows a person to process their trauma, which validates their experience and differs from the therapy of a single session with a therapist, said Berenice D. Rosillo, therapist at Give an Hour.

“They know exactly the feeling of running for their life and sometimes getting hurt,” Rosillo said. “They bring the experiential side.”

Untreated trauma can come back to haunt a person, and some do not seek therapy immediately after an incident, she added.

Survivors can share coping mechanisms and offer other counseling to people with similar experiences, Meserve said.

“It’s a long-term recovery situation,” Meserve said.

Rosillo recommends anyone dealing with more anxiety than usual, panic attacks, isolation, or a change in their eating habits to seek help.

“Timing is not the factor,” Rosillo said. “When you need it most is when you should get help.”

You can reach Ishani Desai at 661-395-7417. You can also follow her at @_ishanidesai on Twitter.

Virginia S. Braud