There were two lines formed near the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign on the afternoon of October 6. One line was waiting to honor the victims of Sunday’s horrific shooting at 58 hand-painted crosses, which was delivered by retired Illinois carpenter Greg Zanis the day before. The other line, as usual, was a steady stream of tourists posing for photos with our city’s beloved luminous landmark.
A family hugged. A man threw his arms triumphantly in the air. A young woman flashed a smile and a peace sign.
Those are average expressions for a photo op in a city where 43 million people visited last year. This time, though, they were also signs of resilience after tragedy.
For many, a visit to Las Vegas hasn’t begun until it’s been made Betty Willis official. Yet, just as Willis didn’t know when she designed the sign how iconic it would become, no one could have known that U.S. Route 91—the road we now call Las Vegas Boulevard—would become synonymous with the horrific attack during the Route 91 Harvest Festival.
As our city finds ways to heal and move forward, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign represents everything it always has: our glowing warmth and hospitality, a reason to keep smiling, keep flashing your peace signs. And to those who visit us, the words on the back of Willis’ sign will always be true: “Drive carefully. Come back soon.”
Photos by Camille Cannon