By: ISHANI DESAI
June 23, 2022
Trauma comes in waves and strikes different people at varying times, clinicians say.
It’s why almost five years after the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting, nonprofit Give an Hour held its first in-person peer support group in Bakersfield on Thursday for survivors and their family members 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 have I gotten through the past almost five years successfully?”
A lone gunman, Stephen Paddock, 64, fired thousands of shots into a crowd on the last day of the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. He died by suicide before 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 — died from the shooting. An estimated 534 tickets were sold to Kern residents, and hundreds from Bakersfield attended Jason Aldean’s concert before gunfire erupted. About $100,000 was given to Kern County victims from the California Victims Compensation Board, according to The Californian’s previous reporting.
Give an Hour sought to provide solace for those enduring trauma years later in a place with other like-minded people. Family members who lost someone, or have a survivor from the shooting, were welcome to share as well.
The event allowed many to tell their story of Oct. 1, 2017, the day of the attack, Meserve of Give an Hour told The Californian before the event. Reporters 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 is different from therapy from a sole session with a therapist, said Berenice D. Rosillo, a therapist with Give an Hour.
“They know exactly the feeling of running for their lives and sometimes getting hurt,” Rosillo said. “They bring the experiential side.”
Unprocessed trauma may return to haunt a person, and some do not seek therapy immediately after an incident, she added.
Survivors can trade coping mechanisms and offer other tips to people with similar experiences, Meserve said.
“It’s a long-term recovery situation,” Meserve said.
Rosillo recommends that anyone who faces more anxiety than usual, panic attacks, isolation or a change in their eating habits seek help.
“Timing is not the factor,” Rosillo said. “When you need it the 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.