Learning more about the loss: Portraits of the Las Vegas shooting victims

One was a nurse who died protecting his wife. Another devoted her life to teaching children with special needs. They were people from different walks of life who had gathered Sunday night to enjoy a country music festival in the glimmering heart of the Las Vegas Strip.

Then the gunman struck, shooting at the outdoor crowd from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel, killing 59 people and injuring at least 527, making it the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

Here are some of their stories.

Rachael Parker

This is a photo of Manhattan Beach Police employee Rachael Parker. Parker was shot and killed in the mass shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas.

Rachael Parker, a 33-year-old records technician for the police department in Manhattan Beach, California, was shot and died at the hospital, Manhattan Beach Police Department said.

She worked for nearly a decade at the front desk of the police station. Even in those stressful confines, she was known for her “cheerful and compassionate demeanor,” police said.

“Rachael’s smile could light up a room, even on the most difficult of days.”

She also had eyes on higher education. Parker earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from Colorado State University in June 2016, and she was in the process of applying to graduate school, police said.

She had a particular passion for working with older adults — she completed her undergraduate practicum by working with Manhattan Beach’s Older Adults Program — and she loved her two adopted dogs, Maddie and Izzy. She enjoyed baking, country music and Los Angeles Kings hockey, police said.

“Rachael, we love you and we miss you. Our hearts are breaking,” police wrote. “Please keep Rachael’s family and friends in your thoughts during this difficult time.”

She was one of four off-duty Manhattan Beach police employees who attended the Vegas concert. Another police employee, a sworn officer, was shot and suffered minor injuries, the department said.

Jordan McIldoon

Jordan McIldoon, a 25-year-old from Maple Ridge, British Columbia, died holding the hand of a stranger at the concert.

Heather Gooze told CNN she somehow ended up next to McIldoon, and, even though she didn’t know him, she held his hand during his final minutes. She felt a squeeze from his fingers, then felt his hand go loose.

Gooze knew there was nothing more to do, she said, yet she stayed with McIldoon for hours. When his phone rang, she answered it and learned his name — and said everything was not OK, she recalled.

Then, Gooze relayed the news of his death by phone to his long-term girlfriend and his mother, she said, all the while staying by his side.

“I didn’t want Jordan to not have somebody with him,” she told CNN through tears. “I didn’t want him to just be a no-named body. I knew who he was, and now I had an obligation to make sure that everyone knew who he was.”

McIldoon’s mother told Gooze he was a good, nice and fun person.

“He loved his girlfriend and had great family and great friends,” Gooze told CNN.

Christopher Roybal

Christopher Roybal died in the mass shooting at a music concert in Las Vegas.

Christopher Roybal, a 28-year-old general manager at a Crunch gym in North Colorado Springs, Colorado, was known for his “big teddy bear smile and infectious laughter,” according to David Harman, managing partner at Crunch.

“More than a team member, we lost someone who was a son, mentor, friend and hero, as a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan,” Harman said.

In a Facebook post from July, Roybal poignantly reflected on what it’s like being shot at from his time overseas.

“My response has always been the same, not one filled with a sense of pride or ego, but an answer filled with truth and genuine fear/anger,” he wrote.

He said his first fight was something he’d never forget. He felt sensory overload and extreme adrenaline, making him “excited, angry and manic.” But as the fights continued, the excitement faded, leaving just the anger, he wrote.

“What’s it like to be shot at? It’s a nightmare no amount of drugs, no amount of therapy and no amount of drunk talks with your war veteran buddies will ever be able to escape,” he wrote. “Cheers boys.”

He died of wounds suffered in the concert shooting.

Hannah Ahlers

Hannah Ahlers died in the mass shooting at a music concert in Las Vegas.

Brian Ahlers told CNN his wife of 17 years was “shot in the head while dancing” with him at the music festival.

Hannah Ahlers, 34, was a stay-at-home mom of three who had lived in Beaumont, California, for the last five years, but was originally from Redlands.

“She was a full-time house wife and mommy and she was amazing at it,” he said. “Very active in moms groups and our daughter’s volleyball team. She wasn’t too good for anybody. Beautiful inside and out.”

Stacee Etcheber

The San Francisco Police Officers Association confirmed Tuesday that Stacee Etcheber was killed in the attack.

Etcheber attended the concert with her husband, Vinnie Etcheber, a San Francisco police officer who was off duty. When the shooting began, Vinnie Etcheber told his wife to run as he began to render aid to those wounded, the SFPOA said in a statement.

“With heavy hearts, we’ve learned that Stacee Etcheber has passed away. Stacee was a wonderful, caring wife, mother, and daughter. She will be terribly missed,” SFPOA President Martin Halloran said in a statement.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the entire Etcheber family and our thoughts and prayers are with all those who lost a loved one during this tragic attack.”

Denise Salmon Burditus

Salmon Burditus died in the mass shooting at a music concert in Las Vegas.

Denise Salmon Burditus, 50, and her husband Tony had traveled to Las Vegas and were enjoying a weekend away from their West Virginia home.

The couple, who had been married for 32 years, posted to their social media accounts several silly pictures of themselves lounging by the pool and having dinner with friends. Half an hour before the shooting began on Sunday, Denise posted a picture of herself and her husband standing in front of the Route 91 Harvest stage.

But the trip ended in tragedy, and Tony Burditus confirmed his wife’s death on Facebook.

“It saddens me to say that I lost my wife of 32 years, a mother of two, soon to be grandmother of 5 this evening in the Las Vegas Shooting,” he wrote. “Denise passed in my arms. I LOVE YOU BABE.”

Denise described herself on Facebook as semiretired, and she was the former president of the Association of the United States Army sub-chapter in Lacey, Washington, according to NorthwestMilitary.com.

Charleston Hartfield

Charleston Hartfield was many things: a Las Vegas police officer, an accomplished Nevada Army National Guard sergeant first class and a youth football coach.

But beyond those titles, he “epitomizes everything good about America,” said Brig. Gen. Zachary Doser, commander of the Nevada National Guard.

Hartfield was off-duty and attending the Route 91 Harvest concert when he was shot and killed, the Guard said in a statement.

Though just 34, Hartfield wrote a memoir titled “Memoirs of a Public Servant,” which documented the “thoughts, feelings, and interactions of one Police Officer in the busiest and brightest city in the world, Las Vegas.”

“Charleston Hartfield lived to serve the public and protect his family,” Brig. Gen. William Burks, the adjutant general of the Nevada National Guard, said. “He is the epitome of a citizen-soldier.”

Hartfield — or “Coach Chucky,” as some called him — was also a coach for the Henderson Cowboys youth football program, the group said on Facebook.

“Coach Hartfield touched many lives both on and off the field. He was a great man who we all lost way (too) early,” the program said.

Stan King, the father of one of the players on the team, said he was “an absolute all-American kind of guy.”

“He is one of the nicest guys I know and helped countless youth become winners through NYS football here in Henderson, Nevada,” King said. “This kind of guy comes around once in a blue moon. He was a very special guy to the community.”

Angela Gomez

Angela “Angie” Gomez died in the mass shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas.

Angela “Angie” Gomez was a “fun-loving, sweet young lady with a great sense of humor” who loved the stage, the Riverside Unified School District said in a statement.

Gomez attended Riverside Polytechnic High School in California and was a member of the class of 2015. She acted on stage with the Riverside Children’s Theater, was involved in the middle and high school choir, and was a cheerleader for the high school, the school district said.

She challenged herself academically with honors and Advanced Placement courses, the school district said. And she “was always seen with a smile on her face whenever she was on campus.”

“Angie was a loyal friend who loved her family and will be forever missed by all those who knew her,” the district said.

Her English teacher and cheer coach Lupe Avila said the school was “deeply saddened by the loss of a wonderful young woman who had her whole life ahead of her.”

Sonny Melton

Sonny Melton, right, was among those who were shot and killed in Las Vegas on Sunday night on October 1, 2017. His wife, Heather Melton (left), an orthopedic surgeon at Innovative Orthopedics survived the shooting.

Sonny Melton, 29, a registered nurse from Tennessee, was shot and killed in the attack Sunday night, according to the Henry County Medical Center in Paris, Tennessee, where he worked.

His wife, Heather Melton, an orthopedic surgeon at Innovative Orthopedics, survived the mass shooting, the statement reads.

In an interview with CNN affiliate WSMV, Heather Melton said her husband saved her life amid the gunfire.

“He saved my life. He grabbed me and started running when I felt him get shot in the back,” she said. “I want everyone to know what a kind-hearted, loving man he was, but at this point, I can barely breathe.”

Sonny Melton graduated from Union University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Accelerated degree and was president of his BSNA class, according to the university.

“You know how when you met someone and you just know that they’re good and kind? That was Sonny,” said Christy Davis, assistant professor of nursing at Union. “He just had a sweet, kind spirit about him.”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam tweeted that he was praying for those affected by the shooting, including Melton’s family.

“In particular, Crissy and I extend our condolences and prayers to the family of Sonny Melton from West Tennessee who was among those killed in this tragedy,” Haslam said. “We know other Tennesseans were in attendance or performing at the event, and my thoughts go out to them as we grieve and process the enormity of this attack. Tennessee stands with Las Vegas during this difficult time.”

Sandra Casey

Las Vegas shooting victim Sandra Casey. Casey was a special education teacher at Manhattan Beach Middle School. She was shot and killed in the massacre.

Sandra Casey, a special education teacher at Manhattan Beach Middle School, was fatally wounded in the shooting, according to Mike Matthews, the Manhattan Beach Unified School District Superintendent.

Casey had taught there for the past nine years and will be remembered for her sense of humor, her passion for her work, her devotion to her students, and her commitment to continuing her own learning and to taking on whatever new projects came her way, Matthews said.

“Our students, employees, and parents are devastated by Sandy Casey’s death. We lost a spectacular teacher who devoted her life to helping some of our most needy students,” Matthews said.

Several other members of the Manhattan Beach Unified School district attended the music festival as well but were unharmed, the school district said.

Jenny Parks

Jenny Parks, a kindergarten teacher for the Lancaster School District in California, was among those who died in the Vegas shooting, according to Steven McCarthy, her husband’s uncle.

“She was truly one of the most loving people you could ever hope to meet,” McCarthy said. “She always went out of her way to help anybody.”

He said that he never saw her upset, and never saw her sad.

Her husband, Bobby Parks, is currently in surgery after a bullet injured his arm and finger, McCarthy said. He said that Bobby Parks is responsive and aware that his wife passed away.

Jenny Parks has two brothers who lived in Las Vegas, and the couple was visiting them.

Neysa Tonks

Neysa Tonks was killed in the mass shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas.

Neysa Tonks, a Las Vegas resident and mother of three, also lost her life in the Las Vegas shooting, her employer Technologent confirmed. Tonks leaves behind three sons — Kaden, Braxton and Greysen.

“Neysa has brought so much joy, fun and laughter to Technologent — she will be greatly missed by all!”

Technologent has established a GoFundMe page on behalf of Tonk’s family. The effort had raised more than $120,000 by Tuesday.

Susan Smith

Susan Smith was killed in the mass shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas.

Susan Smith, a 53-year-old mother who was the office manager for Vista Elementary School in California, was killed in the shooting, according to Jake Finch, the Simi Valley Unified School District’s media relations coordinator.

Smith, who had been with the school district for 16 years, was a “big country music fan” and had gone to Las Vegas with a couple of friends for the music festival, Finch said.

She was “always so welcoming,” Finch said, and served as the “right hand to the principal.”

Smith was married with two young-adult children, Finch said. Her own kids were once a part of the school district and she was very active as a parent, Finch said.

“Everybody knew her,” he added. “She touched a lot of lives.”

The PTA at Vista Fundamental Elementary School posted condolences for Smith on Facebook, saying “she was a wonderful woman, an advocate for our children, and a friend.”

Bailey Schweitzer

Bailey Schweitzer died in the mass shooting at a music concert in Las Vegas.

Bailey Schweitzer was with her mother watching some of their favorite bands at the Route 91 concert in Las Vegas when the 20-year-old was shot and killed, according to CNN affiliate KBAK.

Schweitzer graduated from Centennial High School, where she was a cheerleader and played volleyball. She was also a member of the Valley Bible Fellowship Church and helped run her family’s business, Bakersfield Speedway.

Matt Woessner, a family friend, watched Bailey grow up and said she “had a heart for people.” He told KBAK that “the whole community has lost a great person in Bailey Schweitzer and she’s going to be truly missed everywhere.”

Jennifer T. Irvine

San Diego-based attorney Jennifer T. Irvine, who was on vacation in Las Vegas to attend the concert, was one of the victims of the shooting, her publicist Jay Jones said.

Irvine practiced criminal and family law and owned her own boutique firm. Her website describes her as a “tenacious litigator” who is passionate about assisting clients during difficult times.

The website also notes other unique interests out of the courtroom. She earned a black-belt in taekwondo, enjoyed practicing hot yoga, was an avid snowboarder, and aspired to learn indoor rock climbing and to experience sky-diving, the site says.

Jones, her publicist, released the following statement:

“Remembering a dear friend & colleague whose life was cut short by an unspeakable tragedy. Our sincerest thoughts to those affected during this difficult time. May our unity & strength shine over the darkness.”

Lisa Romero-Muniz

Lisa Romero-Muniz, a secretary for Gallup-McKinley County Schools in western New Mexico, was killed in the shooting, school district superintendent Mike Hyatt said.

She had worked for the school district since 2003 at three different schools and specifically worked as a discipline secretary, acting as an advocate for students during times of discipline.

“As many students have mentioned in some Facebook posts and to many of us, she was there for them and she respected them and tried to work with them as much as she could,” Hyatt said.

He said Romero-Muniz was outgoing, kind, and considerate of all those she worked with.

“We cannot express enough the loss that our organization feels at this time, and the heartache we feel for Lisa’s husband, children, grandchildren and family,” Hyatt said.

Rhonda LeRocque

Rhonda LeRocque of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, was one of the victims in the shooting, her family said.

Her mother, Priscilla Champagne, told CNN that LeRocque was a “beautiful woman inside and out.”

“A truly great mother, daughter, wife, aunt, sister, worker, and a good, kindhearted friend. She had a great faith in Jehovah God, and had a wonderful family life. She loved Hawaii, Disney, and country music.” she said.

“She was the best of the best. She was the hostess with the mostess … the glue who kept our family gatherings together. She will be greatly missed by us all.”

Her sister, Korina Champagne, said in a Facebook post on Monday that her heart was broken.

“My Beautiful Sister Rhonda LeRocque lost her life in the Las Vegas mass shooting,” Korina Champagne posted. “My heart is broken, I’m numb, I feel paralyzed. This doesn’t seem real. All I can do is turn to God’s Word for comfort, just as she would want me to. May shec rest now until her name is called and she is awakened in paradise.”

She added a Bible passage to the end of her Facebook post, “Do not be amazed at this, for the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”

Carrie Barnette

Disney employee Carrie Barnette was one of the victims of Sunday’s shooting, the company’s Chairman and CEO Robert Iger said Monday.

“A senseless, horrific, act, and a terrible loss for so many. We mourn a wonderful member of the Disney family: Carrie Barnette. Tragic,” Iger tweeted.

In a statement, the company said Barnette had worked for Disney for 10 years “and was beloved by her friends and colleagues.”

“Another valued Disney cast member, Jessica Milam, was also seriously injured and we are praying for her recovery,” the statement said.