At least 58 people were killed and 515 injured in the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history Oct. 1 in Las Vegas. At 10 p.m. PST, a lone gunman shot at a crowd of up to 22,000 people from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas strip. Those in the crowd were attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival, a three-day country music concert at the Las Vegas Village and Festival Grounds.
During a performance by singer Jason Aldean, the last act of the festival, a nonstop shower of bullets erupted. After a few seconds, crowd members realized what was happening, and Aldean ran off stage. Panicked confusion ensued, and thousands of people rushed from the concert venue into sheltered locations and onto the tarmac of nearby McCarran International Airport.
Miller Silbey, a freshman majoring in sports administration, has lived in Las Vegas since he was two years old. He said four of his friends were at the festival, and they confused the sound of gunshots for pyrotechnics until they saw Aldean flea the stage.
“I’ve been thinking about it all day,” Silbey said. “It’s crazy how it hit so close to home.”
Silbey said he called his friends to make sure they were OK when he saw the news the following morning. Physically, they were fine, but said they are scarred after watching people get shot and family members shield each other from bullets.
One friend was part of the mob of people desperately trying to get away.
“He just ran and ran until he was as far away as possible,” Silbey said. “He said it was like a war zone.”
Freshman Sophia Constantino lived in Las Vegas during her sixth and seventh grade years. Her parents live in upstate New York now, but Constantino said her dad still works in Las Vegas one week out of the year.
Constantino’s father flew into Las Vegas Oct. 1, and Constantino didn’t know anything was wrong until she received a breaking news update from the BBC on her cellphone while at the gym the morning after the massacre. She texted her dad and heard from him after three hours. He’s fine.
Jaye Straus was born and raised in Las Vegas, and she lives about 15 minutes from the strip where the shooting took place. She said people don’t realize “how tiny Vegas is,” and how scary it is to recognize the setting of this tragedy.
“It doesn’t seem real,” said Straus, a sophomore in the business school. “That’s what is crazy – when you see the same buildings that you see in person.”
The gruesome massacre marks the seventh recorded mass shooting in the United States in 2017.
The Islamic State terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack, but authorities have not publicly confirmed whether the gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock from Mesquite, Nevada, had any ties to an international terrorist organization.
Paddock had no significant prior criminal history, local officials said. The gunman had 20 rifles in his hotel room, including two on tripods at the windows, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, according to the New York Times.
Constantino said she was scared and stressed before she heard from her dad. However, she went to class like normal. But as she sat in the dining hall during lunch, the gravity of the tragedy struck her.
“I started crying and was shaking at my table because there are 50 or more people who will text their dads or loved one and aren’t going to hear back,” Constantino said. “I was lucky to hear back from mine.”
Feature photo courtesy of pixabay user Håkan Dahlström.