Local Poet’s Book Remembers Survivors and Victims of October 1 Tragedy

Royalties from the book will be donated to survivors

By Melissa Gill | Las Vegas, NV

On Sunday, October 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire on thousands of music fans attending the Harvest Route 91 music festival in Las Vegas. The mass shooting devastated the country with the untimely loss of 58 individuals on that day.

To honor the victims and survivors, poet Heather Lang-Cassera wrote “Gathering Broken Light,” a poetry collection reflecting on the collective grief and sorrow following the tragedy. The royalties of the book will be donated to The Vegas Strong Resiliency Center to support the survivors. 

For over three years, she worked on writing and revising the poems for this collection. She began composing the pieces the day after the tragedy happened, but just as a way to process her own emotions and thoughts. It wasn’t until months later after she attended a poetry event in Northern California that she decided to consider creating the book.

“I went to a poetry event in Northern California and the folks with whom I was talking hadn’t heard about the tragedy, or at least didn’t remember hearing. I felt shocked by that, not blaming them or anything like that, but I was surprised and unsettled. That was when I first started thinking about writing the book,” says Lang-Cassera.

“Gathering Broken Light” includes a villanelle of phrases that describe the weapons used that night from an article, discarded items from the scene and intimate details she read about that horrific evening.

“There was something about the more technical details, the firearm terminology and the state laws and regulations, that felt so different from the intimate grief my community was experiencing.”

Through thoughtful lyricism, delicate repetition, and heart-wrenching narratives, the poetry acknowledges that this shattering devastation “confronts pasts that we cannot understand.”

Although words alone cannot grasp all the emotional complexities experienced on the October 1 Tragedy, the book offers a way to remember and honor the victims and survivors.

“I do hope that the book says this: we remember. I know that grief isn’t linear.”

Heather Lang-cassera

Lang-Cassera wrote “Alphabet of Grief” pieces in this collection that do not reach every letter in the alphabet, which is another way of expressing the loss and despair that shook the world. She explains her inspiration for applying this literary device.

“Both our need for language and the failure of language, such as its limitations, inspired those poems. There are no words, not really, for something as terrible as what happened on 1 October. Nevertheless, language is also important to how we connect as human beings, how we form communities.”

Below is one of the “Alphabet of Grief” poems featured in the book.

As we pause in memory of the victims and survivors on the anniversary of the October 1 Tragedy this year, may we honor those we lost too soon and be present for those grieving. 

“Gathering Broken Light” is now available for purchase through Unsolicited Press, The Writer’s Block, Barnes & Noble, Target and elsewhere. 

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