Elaine Anderson’s posts to her Facebook account this weekend seemed typical for someone on a Las Vegas vacation. Photographs of swimming in the hotel pool. The Bellagio Fountain. Images of a country music festival.
Her post on Sunday night, however, was anything but typical.
“Very scary tonight,” it started. “Many people killed…”
She and her husband Kevin escaped with their lives after a gunman opened fire on country music fans watching singer Jason Aldean at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. The Pendleton couple dove for cover along with everyone else. The barrage of gunfire killed at least 59 people and wounded more than 500 in the worst mass shooting in American history. SWAT officers swarmed the nearby Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and found the apparent shooter, Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, dead in his 32nd-floor hotel room with a cache of rifles and ammunition.
The Andersons had spent the afternoon listening to bands such as Big & Rich at the festival. As they waited for Aldean to take the stage, they reveled in the ambiance.
“Everyone was happy and dancing and having a wonderful time,” said Elaine by phone on Monday.
That would change in an instant. The couple, who sat near the stage, heard a series of pops that punctured the desert night.
“We heard what sounded like fireworks,” said Elaine, who is a senior mortgage loan officer at the Guild Mortgage Company in Pendleton. “Everyone started dropping. Just getting down.”
Panic ensued. Elaine started recording video from her position on the ground. She saw people stampeding for the exit or jumping the fence.
Kevin, national director of a medical transportation company called American Medical Response, started helping the wounded. He went to a 24-year-old off-duty police officer who had been shot in the head, hauled him to safety and started CPR. Elaine aided the man’s wife, who had been shot in the shoulder.
Kevin, she said, went back inside multiple times to help other downed audience members.
“My husband is a medic who helped save lives,” Elaine said. “He is a hero along with others.”
Kevin is quick to shrug off the praise. He simply did what he could in an impossible situation.
“I’ve been a first responder for over 30 years and never seen anything close to this and probably never will again,” he said.
He said he banded together with other off-duty medics and police officers to give aid and get victims to transport in ambulances and private cars.
The Andersons had attended the first day of the three-day festival on Friday, watching country singer Eric Church from the right side of the audience. On Sunday, they found spots on the opposite side.
“On Friday, we sat on the same side as the shooter, the place where most of the people died,” she said.
It’s disconcerting to know the difference between life and death is as random as where one sits. The Andersons are still processing. They feel shellshocked and grateful to escape with their lives. Fifty-nine people, they know, will never go home.
“We are the lucky ones,” she said. “Please continue to pray for the families that were not as lucky as we were.”
Contact Kathy Aney at email@example.com or 941-966-0810.