Las Vegas is a tourist mecca chosen by tens of millions of people from across the country and around the world as a place to celebrate special occasions. They visit on tickets given as birthday gifts or as treats for themselves. They come to blow it out at bachelor and bachelorette parties. They reserve the good table to toast another year together.
So it was for many of the victims of Sunday’s massacre on the Strip; people who traveled to the city to mark milestones, only to have their lives cut short.
Five of the victims were celebrating anniversaries.
Sonny Melton, 29, a nurse from Big Sandy, Tennessee, was celebrating his first wedding anniversary with his wife when he died shielding her from bullets.
For Laurie and Jack Beaton, Sunday capped 23 years as husband and wife. When gunfire erupted, Jack threw his body on top of his wife’s, saving her life but losing his own. “I’ll see you in heaven,” Laurie told him as he faded away.
Tara Roe, 34, an educational assistant and part-time model, journeyed 1,000-plus miles from Okotoks, Alberta, Canada to celebrate her wedding anniversary. Her husband survived. She did not.
Bill Wolfe Jr., a 42-year-old engineer from Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, bought tickets to the Route 91 Harvest Festival as a 20th anniversary gift for his wife. He did not make it out alive.
Lisa Romero-Muniz’s husband, Chris, forgot their anniversary last year. One of the Route 91 performers, Jason Aldean, was her favorite country singer. He got her a ticket as his way of making up for it, and wound up losing her on the concert grounds.
At least one victim was marking a new chapter in her career.
Angela Gomez, 20, was in Las Vegas along with her high school sweetheart to celebrate her new job as a certified nursing assistant. She aspired to be a nurse. “Angie was a natural-born caregiver,” a friend said.
Seven other victims of the massacre were observing birthdays, or about to.
Steve Berger, a financial advisor from Shorewood, Minnesota, was in Las Vegas with his girlfriend and friends to celebrate turning 44.
Christopher Roybal was a 28-year-old Navy veteran who’d served in Afghanistan and recently settled in Denver. He had a thing for Las Vegas — its signature logo was tattooed on his left forearm. He picked the city for a birthday weekend with his mother, to whom he was exceptionally close.
Funny and energetic, Carrie Barnette, 34, was “the kind of friend that everybody would want in their life,” a friend of hers said. On Sunday, she was shot in the chest as she celebrated one of those friend’s 30th birthday.
Rocio Guillen Rocha, a 40-year-old mother of four, was also in town to mark her friend’s birthday. The getaway came seven weeks after she gave birth to her youngest child.
Jordan McIldoon was a heavy-duty mechanic from Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada. He was looking forward to turning 24 this Friday in Las Vegas, where he journeyed every year to celebrate his birthday. He was his parents’ only child.
Austin Meyer, 24, a California native who recently moved to Reno, Nevada, to attend college, wasn’t just celebrating his birthday in Sin City — he was also celebrating his anniversary with his girlfriend.
A Vegas trip was Andrea Castilla’s 28th birthday present to herself. But Castilla, a makeup artist at a Sephora in Huntington Beach, California, didn’t know she was there for another milestone occasion: Her boyfriend, Derek, was planning to propose. He did not get the chance.