There were only about 45 minutes left in the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas last Oct. 1 when gunfire erupted.
A crowd of 22,000 country music fans scattered in panic, but more than 500 of them could not get out of the way of the hail of bullets raining down from the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Fifty-eight of them lost their lives.
In Brentwood, a phone rang in the home of Valerie DePaola. Her daughter, Lindsey, was at the concert.
“She said she was calling to say goodbye, and then the phone cut off,” recalled Lindsey’s 17-year-old sister, Victoria. “We were in shock. We didn’t know if she was alive or dead.”
An agonizing 10 minutes later, Lindsey sent a text saying she was hiding but not physically hurt. In the ensuing months, counseling has helped her deal with the post-traumatic stress disorder she suffered as a result of the incident.
There was trauma to cope with for the rest of the DePaola family, too. When Lindsey sent Valerie a link covering a movement to honor those killed, she shared it with Victoria and their other sister Karissa, 13. The movement called #58randomactsofkindness was launched with the intent to spread kindness in the wake of the worst mass shooting in modern American history.
Victoria and Karissa jumped on the idea as a way to deal with their feelings, and they began their own version of #58randomactsofkindness. The idea behind the movement is to memorialize each of the victims by doing something nice for someone in your own area, honoring each victim in a way specific to them.
The girls read profiles of each victim to get ideas for good deeds that would honor the fallen.
They brought a tray of baked goods to the Brentwood Union School District board meeting in memory of special education teacher Sandy Casey from Manhattan Beach. They delivered baked goods to the Brentwood Lions Club to honor Brennan Stewart, a homebuilder from Las Vegas. Upcoming stops at local police and fire stations will honor first responders who died in the attack.
Other acts are more random, such as paying for someone’s Starbucks order, preloading vending machines with quarters or handing out colorful flowers to brighten someone’s day. Each act, however, is done in memory of one of the 58 who died.
“We talk about them to get their names out again but associated with something good instead of something terrible,” said Victoria.
Karissa said that searching for opportunities to do something positive has changed her.
“It feels really good to know something good can happen,” she said. “It makes me look at the world differently.”
Valerie said what the girls are doing has helped her deal with her own anger and what she called “a different reality after October first.”
“I’m humbled by them,” she said. “I see my girls out there making a difference, and I say, ‘OK, Valerie. Get it together.’”
For additional information or to make a contribution, contact the Brentwood Lions at 925-587-3783.