Around 7:37 p.m., the first red light flickers to life on the western side of Black Mountain in Henderson. A heart forms as more lights turn on, and then a rough outline of Nevada takes shape around it.
Local attorney David Koch and his 18-year-old son, Mason, hiked up the mountain April 17 to place the lights as a show of support for their community. Koch said they watch the lights blink on nearly every night from their backyard.
“I heard the casinos were doing the same thing, with hearts on the sides in lights,” Koch said. “But, you know, how many locals see those? How many drive down the Strip every day? Especially now?”
He bought 40 white and 20 red solar lights on stakes that he and his son stuffed into duffel bags and backpacks.
“Then we started up the mountainside,” he said.
Even after planning ahead and measuring, it took a full 11 hours of scrambling up and down the rough terrain to position the lights. As the sun started to set and they headed down to see their handiwork, he and his son weren’t sure how it would look, Koch said.
“We thought, ‘This could be good, or it could be an epic failure,’” Koch said. “But we went down and saw that we did a pretty good job.”
The lights can be seen from as far away as the 215 Beltway, he said.
At first, the heart was a bit off-center because it was the last part Koch and his son placed, but they later went back and straightened things out.
The idea for the lights came from Koch’s wife, who saw something similar on social media, showed it to him and remarked that they could do the same thing. He said it doubled as a ploy to get his son, a high school senior, out of the house.
“And besides, we wanted to go out,” he said. “We were all starting to go stir crazy.”
Koch said his workload has greatly decreased, and he’s glad to have more time to spend with his family. But he worries for other Nevadans who are struggling without work or child care during the pandemic.
“It really hit home for me when MGM announced they were closing down. That was like a gut punch,” he said.
Koch and his family hope the lights will help lift people’s spirits, and he said he’s heard nothing but positive responses so far.
He said he wasn’t entirely sure when he and his son would take the lights down. The initial plan was last weekend, because he worried the lights might set a precedent for vandals or simply overstay their welcome.
“You get nervous, you know. Sometimes you want to do something positive, but it’s not always received that way,” he said.
But many people asked Koch to leave them up on the mountain indefinitely, or at least until Gov. Steve Sisolak’s stay-at-home order expires. So Koch decided he would wait until the end of April to remove them.
“The message we wanted to send is that we, in Nevada, we’re all in this together,” he said. “And we’re all going to get through it together.”