Widowed by Vegas Massacre, Father of Three Returns to Site of Wife's Death: 'I'll Never Forget'
Bob Patterson's life split in two on Oct. 1, 2017, when a gunman opened fire on 22,000 concertgoers in Las Vegas, killing Lisa Patterson and 57 others
There is everything that happened before he got the call that night that “something had happened in Las Vegas,” and then there is everything that came after.
Lisa, 46, had traveled with three friends for the weekend to attend the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Vegas.
That October night, Bob texted her to see if she was enjoying herself. “I miss u,” he wrote her. “I miss u too,” she wrote back. That was their last conversation.
“I didn’t go more than a couple hours without talking to her,” Bob says. “It’s just very strange to not have that communication with her all the time. It got hard a few months later when I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. I’m never going to talk to her again.’ I don’t know if my brain thought I was actually going to talk to her again or what … [but] it took a couple months for that to actually sink in.”
Memories of the horror and confusion of that night — as Bob tried to reach his wife, tried to learn what had gone wrong and if she was okay — remain in easy reach. Fatally shot at the concert venue, Lisa was declared victim No. 11.
Fifty-eight people were killed by the gunman, in total, with more than 700 others injured.
“I just noticed that I am just now coming out of the shock I was in for probably months and months and months,” Bob says. “I started to remember things I was doing right before it happened. I was pushing into my brain trying to figure out what was going on and stuff and now I am starting to be like — ‘Oh yeah, now I remember … ‘ ”
“It’s been nice to try and feel more normal again,” he says.
“More normal,” a “new normal”: Bob describes his family’s process of grief and healing as ongoing, incomplete, but typically better now than the day before. Each morning, though, Bob and his three children with Lisa — Amber, 20, Robert III, 17, and 8-year-old Brooke — face another day without her.
“We’re doing okay,” he says, adding, “It’s been a very challenging year. We miss her every day.”
While Bob, who lives in Lomita, California, has been to Vegas several times in the last year, he and his son returned to the exact spot where Lisa died for the first time on Sept. 21.
Though the area is “essentially just a parking lot now,” it bore some remnants of the massacre.
“I could actually still see tape and everything from where the Astroturf, where people sat, was still on the ground,” Bob says.
He continues, “I got some crazy feelings on that property.”
Grappling with the heartache of not having Lisa beside him has proven difficult in ways both expected and not.
“I think I have more hard moments than hard days,” he says. “She was so much a part of everything. I didn’t go more than a couple hours without talking to her.”
He also has to face the reality of living without his helpmate who, he realized after her death, did so much for him and their family.
Before Lisa died, Bob says, “I hadn’t paid a bill in 25 years. She paid all the bills. I would coach the kids’ [sports teams] and things like that. She took care of everything to do with the house — cooking, the laundry, taking the kids to school.”
“I lost about 30 lbs. because I’m exhausted from all the extra things I am doing now,” he says.
Now, more than ever, his children are his priority. Brooke, his youngest, learned her mom was dead from Bob.
“I’m doing my best to take care of my kids and more than anything to make sure that my 8-year-old is taken care of,” he says.
Lisa’s absence at their hardwood flooring company is also glaring. “She took care of everything, including helping me work,” he says. “I didn’t know how much there was on [the business side]. I would just go and see a pile of wood and put a floor in.”
A bright spot of the tragedy has been the outpouring of support from friends, family and strangers alike.
Locals banded together to pay for Brooke’s tuition at her private Catholic school. Bob also received donations from people all over the nation.
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He even made a connection in Vegas, befriending Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Jon Klassen.
Klassen, who has “been amazing,” was the first to find Lisa on the ground at the festival, Bob says. “When they were checking for vital signs and stuff and touched her cheek, some tears actually came out of her eyes.”
“He [Klassen] was really, really distraught from what happened on the field and wanted to know who Lisa was related to, so he could tell the story to that person’s family,” Bob says.
As Bob and his family face the first anniversary of the shooting, “I’m hoping to get back to some kind of a normal life. I feel it coming.”
“Life will go on,” he says. “But I’ll never forget.”
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