I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor


Delaney (left) and myself (right) front row for Sam Hunt’s performance the night before tragedy struck the venue and city of Las Vegas.

October 1st easily went from a day full of fun to a night full of senseless terror, forever changing the girl I am.

On September 29, I attended the first day of the three day long Route 91 Harvest Festival with my best friend, Delaney Sylvester. 

She and I made memories that I woke up on the morning of October 1st, thinking would last a lifetime. We had the chance to see some of our favorite artists together, and celebrate my belated birthday at a festival full of country music and happy, kind hearted people. Little did we know that a weekend full of smiles, laughter and fun, was about to turn into chaos, panic, and tragedy.

I grew up listening to Jason Aldean, among many other country artists.

He was someone I was looking forward to seeing at the festival. He was scheduled to perform at 9:50 p.m. on the night of October 1st. I was attending the festival with my best friend, it was just she and I.

We had a plan for the evening, approved by our parents, to park at the Mandalay Bay parking garage. We had been staying at the Delano all weekend, so it made sense, and then leave when Aldean finished. We got to the festival late on Sunday, around 6:45 p.m., and decided to meet up with friends we had made earlier in the weekend. We found them and headed to a spot on the right side of the stage, closest to Las Vegas Boulevard, to watch Aldean’s performance. Little did we know this was the spot that would be heavily impacted by gunfire within minutes of us settling there.

Aldean was about four songs into his performance when a strange noise was heard by everyone in the audience. “Is it fireworks? Or firecrackers?” This was the question I was hearing asked by the people around me. I felt an uneasy feeling settling in my chest and saw the urgency of security guards who rushed on stage ushering Aldean off. That’s the moment I knew something terrible was about to happen. I grabbed my best friend’s hand, and told her we needed to get out of there, that it’s not safe anymore.

Rounds and rounds of gunfire began to go off, as people were yelling, “get down! get down!” all around us. We got to a bar against the gate of the right side of the venue, which is when I called my parents.

I remember feeling panic then, telling my mom that there was gunfire and I didn’t know where it was coming from. She told me to calm down, and from that moment on, for the rest of the night, I kept telling myself to stay calm, so I did. 

Since I didn’t know where the gunfire was coming from, I didn’t know if it was safe to run or if we needed to stay down and hidden. When the shooting noise was at an absence we progressed forward along different bars, making our way north along the gate. We made it as far as we could along the bars on the gate side, and again, I felt panic. I thought we were trapped and there was no way out. Right in that moment, an emergency exit gate opened, which lead us onto Las Vegas Boulevard.

Delaney and I ran across the street onto the median when gunfire started up again. We continued to progress north, holding each other’s hands tightly, and hiding behind palm trees and bushes as best as we could. I remember seeing a Metro officer who told us to run north, so we started sprinting. We sprinted for the Luxor, and made it inside. We hid for about 20 minutes in a women’s restroom, and we both talked to our parents the duration of that time. We left the bathroom and found a rush of people, a women who worked at the Luxor was leading them to a door that led to the basement.

The group was a mix of concert goers, hotel guest, and Luxor employees. After about 15 minutes of standing in a group near the basement entrance, we were all guided to the employee lounge in the basement. It was once we were there that I realized both my knees were scuffed up, from the knee down I was wearing asphalt, and my right thigh had been scratched up in multiple places. I remember being pushed down to the ground once, which is why my legs were in this condition.

After being lead to the employee lounge, about 15 minutes in, my dad found Delaney and I there. He rushed down to the strip from our house in the time I had called my parents. For about 3-3.5 hours we were under lockdown at the Luxor. All of the hotels went into lockdown, and by the end of it all, Luxor had about 400 people in the basement that night. When we received the clear to leave, we were guided to the car. I finally got home at 4 a.m., on the morning of October 2.

Thinking back on it now, everything happened so quickly. I’m lucky that I got out of the venue when I did. I know I wouldn’t have gotten out of there without my best friend by my side, and my parents, who, though they weren’t there, kept me going strong.

I’m never going to be the same girl I was before this, but I know with the love I feel at home and on the campus of Faith Lutheran, every day is going to get easier.

#vegasstrong #countrystrong #702strong