Vegas shooting survivor travels from Colorado to thank first responders with baskets

Denver resident Jenna Hutchins said, “Without these people, it would have been much worse.”
3 min. read
Colorado flag. (Kimberly Vardeman/Flickr)

By Regina Garcia Cano, Associated Press

Emergency room workers insisted they were just doing their jobs on that tragic October night as survivors of the mass shooting in Las Vegas expressed their gratitude Friday with tears and gift baskets.

The survivors who stopped at the emergency room west of the Las Vegas Strip are part of a group that is meeting this week with first responders at hospitals, fire and police stations and other sites to hand out gift baskets as a gesture of appreciation. The individuals, some of whom traveled from Colorado and California, raised more than $40,000 to assemble 1,000 baskets.

Nurse Carolyn Hafen, the director of the emergency room at Spring Valley Hospital, choked up as she thanked the survivors in the same waiting room that two months earlier had seen chaos as patient after patient arrived. The facility treated more than 50 victims.

"We don't need a thank you. This is what we signed up to do," she said. "It was an honor to be able to help in any way that we could."

On Oct. 1, a high-stakes gambler killed 58 people and injured hundreds more after he shattered windows of his hotel suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino and unleashed withering gunfire at a crowd of 22,000 people gathered at the Route 91 Harvest music festival below. He then killed himself.

Emergency rooms were inundated with patients, some dropped off by emergency personnel and others by Good Samaritans who turned their vehicles into makeshift ambulances.

Outside the break room of the Spring Valley Hospital ER, thank-you notes are on a bulletin board that also says "Vegas Strong." One came from emergency personnel who responded to the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, another one was sent from a hospital that tended to victims of the shooting at Virginia Tech. Hafen on Friday was handed a stack of cards from survivors.

Denver resident Jenna Hutchins escaped the festival venue uninjured. Sporting a T-shirt that reads "Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival Survivor," she said she found it "therapeutic" to work with about 100 other people last week to assemble the baskets, which have a book, essential-oil diffuser and other items.

"It's an honor to be here in front of the people that were behind the scenes at that moment," she said as she wiped tears from her face. "Without these people, it would have been much worse."

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