What should be done with a crime scene like the place where 58 people were shot to death in Las Vegas last week? The scene of carnage was a flat 15-acre parcel of land without any permanent structures. It is a rectangle of blacktop surrounded by busy streets, including the famous Las Vegas Strip, the New York Times reports. From Columbine to Sandy Hook to the Pulse nightclub, those left behind have had to grapple with the murder scene, and the difficult balance between looking back and moving on. Some decided to tear down buildings where the killing was done; others remodeled and reopened them, or moved right back in. Las Vegas poses unique issues. There is nothing permanent about the concert venue, and the killer was not in the same place as the victims. The sites on opposite ends of the massacre are owned by MGM Resorts International, which must decide what to do with them.
For Barbara Poma, owner of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, where 49 people died in a shooting last year, the decision will not be easy. “There are so many feelings and emotions involved, and those feelings change over time,” she said. “No rash decision should be made at all.” In Las Vegas, “where the victims were, that is relatively easy to deal with, in that what happened there was a tragedy, with independent acts of heroism and solidarity,” said sociologist James Hawdon of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention at Virginia Tech. “It would be easy to transform, because there is nothing there. It’s basically a vacant lot.” Trickier is the gunman’s perch in the hotel. “The hotel rooms, it’s hard to think of anything socially positive from the space,” Hawdon said. “That space was purely evil, the actions in that space. To me, you somehow try to make it unrecognizable. You want to try to make it devoid of meaning related to the tragedy.”