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STORY OF THE WEEK: “Vegas Strong” Photo Helps Las Vegas First Responders Heal

Las Vegas first responders – Vegas Strong – Dan Sundahl

Las Vegas first responders – Vegas Strong – Dan Sundahl

Vegas Strong – Las Vegas First Responders Mental Health Fund

Photo: "Vegas Strong" photo of Las Vegas First Responders | Photo by Daniel Sundahl

“Vegas Strong” photo by full-time paramedic and photographer, Daniel Sundahl who specializes in Emergency Response artwork. Proceeds from sales of this “Vegas Strong” photo will benefit the Las Vegas First Responder Mental Health Fund

By Stacey Gualandi/October 29, 2017

On the night of the horrifying mass shooting in Las Vegas, first responders from Metro Police, Nevada Highway Patrol, Clark County Fire, Community Ambulance, AMR, Las Vegas Fire & Rescue and Medic West rushed to the Strip to save as many lives as they could. Two weeks later, over two dozen of them reunited to share their personal experiences, offer each other support, and to pose for a group photo.

“It’s an integral part of our history as Nevadans, as Americans. It’s our 9/11.”
—Heather Raasveld, advanced EMT and Las Vegas first responder

They are all trained officers, paramedics, firefighters and EMTs, but none of them could have fully prepared for the tragedy on October 1st. It not only shattered any sense of normalcy, but also bonded this group for life.

Photo: Las Vegas Medic first responders | Photo: Daniel Sundahl of DanSun Photo Art specializing in Emergency Responder artwork

Las Vegas Medic first responders | Photo: Daniel Sundahl of DanSun Photo Art specializing in Emergency Responder artwork

Heather Raasveld, an advanced EMT with Medic West Ambulance and a mother of two young children, was one of the first responders that fateful night. Heather and I have been friends for over a decade. We both live in Las Vegas and I immediately thought of her when news of the active shooter broke. The only way I knew how she was doing was through her Facebook posts. This has been a very difficult time for Heather and her family so I wanted to share her story and her efforts to help all of the First Responders heal.

Heather and Canadian-based photographer and firefighter Daniel Sundahl organized this photo shoot to make sure those who came to help others are not forgotten.

Photo: Stacey Gualandi with Heather Raasveld, Las Vegas First Responder as an advanced EMT with Medic West Ambulance

Las Vegas first responder and advanced EMT, Heather Raasveld (l) with Stacey Gualandi (r)

“It’s an integral part of our history as Nevadans, as Americans. It’s our 9/11,” says Raasveld.

As a full-time paramedic, Sundahl says his artwork (a cross between photography and painting) is a form of therapy, and he’s glad to be in a position to promote their profession.

These are the actual heroes of Las Vegas,” says Sundahl. “These people made the difference and saved so many lives.”

Off-duty officer Charleston Hartfield, who came to the aid of several victims while attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival, lost his life that night. Sundahl is also paying tribute to him; if you look closely, he “ghosted” Hartfield into the photo on the far left so he could stand with his fellow Metro officers.

 

Photo of Las Vegas first responders from Metro Police and Nevada Highway Patrol with fallen off-duty officer, Charleston Hatfield "ghosted" in (far left) | Photo: Daniel Sundahl of DanSun Photo Art, specializing in Emergency Response artwork and photography

Las Vegas first responders from Metro Police and Nevada Highway Patrol. Fallen officer, Charleston Hartfield “ghosted” in far left. Photo: Daniel Sundahl

Medic West EMT Kit York, who transported security guard Jesus Campus after he was shot in the leg, says what happened will always be there so this reunion “means more than you can ever imagine.” To show her ongoing support, she proudly revealed a fresh Route 91 tattoo on her leg.

Photo of Las Vegas first responder, Kitt York's Route 91 tattoo | Photo: Stacey GualandiRaasveld says bringing this “family” together again so soon after the shooting is instrumental in their healing process.

“We do the best we can to bolster each other up, but we’re not the professionals. We’re there to keep people’s hearts beating, lungs breathing, but we don’t know how to help each other mentally when something like this happens.”
—Heather Raasveld

That’s where The Code Green Campaign comes in. It helps first responders get mental health access and the tools, Raasveld says, “to make ourselves whole again.”

Sundahl says he is donating all the proceeds from sales of his “Vegas Strong” photo to the Las Vegas First Responder Mental Health Fund set up by Code Green.

The sooner she can return to normalcy, Raasveld says, the sooner she can be a functional, productive mother and get back out into the community to help others the way she was trained to. In the meantime, she is grateful to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her extended family. “I have to say I couldn’t be more proud of my city and my people and those who came here and who stepped up and helped others that day. I think if it wasn’t for that there would have been many more lives lost.”

Learn more about how to order your copy of “Vegas Strong”, or to Donate directly to the Fund.

Photographer Daniel Sundahl taking the Vegas Strong photo of the Las Vegas first responders | Photo: Stacey Gualandi

Photographer Daniel Sundahl taking the “Vegas Strong” photo of the Las Vegas first responders | Photo: Stacey Gualandi

 

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