Growing up in Cairo, Las Vegas resident Mary Rose Simon was raised by her grandmother, a survivor of the Armenian genocide.
“She instilled in me the Armenian values,” said Simon, one of 12,000 Armenians who live in Clark County. “And she had no grudges at all.”
A monument was unveiled Saturday at Sunset Park to commemorate the about 1.5 million Armenians who were exterminated by the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923.
“When you grow up with a lady who had wounds and you heard about how they happened, it didn’t set in until just now looking at this monument,” she said. “This is a gift to the community and we’re putting Clark County on the map.”
The monument is a replica of the one that was dedicated in 1965 in Yerevan, Armenia, a small nation and former Soviet republic just east of Turkey. It’s made out of precast concrete and has 12 pillars, which represent the 12 provinces where Armenians were massacred, as well as a bench and dedication plaque on an adjacent boulder.
Members of the Armenian-American Cultural Society of Las Vegas and Adroushan Andy Armenian, honorary consul of the Republic of Armenia in Las Vegas, first approached Clark County Commissioner Marybeth Scow nearly 10 years ago with the idea for the monument.
Scow said she decided to put a policy in place before taking action to construct the monument in her district.
“I wanted to make sure we were doing this in a fair way so having a policy in place would help judge what rises to the level of doing something like this,” she said. “The purpose was to establish criteria for guidelines and consideration.”
Scow added that she ensured the monument, which is at the eastern part of the park along Sunset Road, was in a location that wouldn’t interfere with the recreation purpose of the park as well as that the Armenian organization would be responsible for upkeep and repairs.
“By having it in Sunset Park, a lot of people can see it and it will be a great tool for our community to remember what happened,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to having and appreciating it.”
The more than 200 attendees also had a moment of silence at the monument unveiling to pay tribute to the least 120 people who were killed by terrorists in Paris on Friday.
Friday’s attack also served as a reminder of why remembering senseless crimes is important, Simon said.
“The timing couldn’t have been better,” she said. “Terrorism is happening everywhere and while they’re working hard to destroy humanity, we’re here counteracting what they’re doing.”
John Dolmayan, a Las Vegas resident and drummer of the Armenian-American rock band, System of a Down, said the Paris attacks hit close to home.
“My friends the Deftones were supposed to play a show tonight at the venue where the attacks happened,” he said of Le Bataclan concert hall. “It was just a bunch of kids going to a rock show, what have they done?”
Dolmayan attended the monument unveiling to pay tribute to his heritage, which he said is the most important thing.
“Something like this is for Armenians and non-Armenians to enjoy because it will help people remember about the atrocities that were committed,” he said of the monument. “It will also help prevent it from happening again.”
Like Dolmayan, Gerard Costantian, an Armenian and Las Vegas resident, hopes the monument serves as an educational tool for years to come.
“I hope people walk through, see it and learn something about this event,” he said. “I’m hoping it will bring awareness to one of the most significant events in history.”