The first time I got the feeling that maybe we shouldn’t be going to Vegas for this trip was early last week. We had a lot on our plates last week, but we had this trip booked for several months and were determined to make it.
I asked my wife on Thursday night before we left if she was sure she wanted to go. She said “no” and I should’ve let
my(her) intuition take over and just cancelled the trip. BUT our fun-loving, gypsy/hippie side won out and by 2:00 Friday afternoon, we were boarding a plane for Vegas.
No kids, just us. Ready for a weekend of The Vegas Life!
I feel guilty every time I leave my kids overnight, but I also know how needed the breaks are to “reset” and remind ourselves why we are living this crazy life together. Maybe it’s just my way of justifying things, but it has seemed to get us through the years without feeling like we are stuck in the ruts of life.
Concerts are our “thing.” We see dozens of shows a year, and it used to be hundreds, but raising babies has slowed that down some. We take our kids when possible, and my 16-year-old has been to multiple shows and festivals with us through the years. It’s something that bonds us as a couple, a family, and even a nation.
My kids playing in the water fall at a Dead and Co. Show
But today, as I type this, I’m afraid it’s all gone now. The innocence, the freedom, the feeling of being at a show and having all the cares in the world drift away, if only for a tiny moment of time.
I don’t know if I really want to type this out, but I need to type this out. I need to get it out of my brain and into words so that I will never forget the way I feel in the moment. I have not slept since the shooting, it was almost 24 hours ago.
The day started off pretty rough. It was the last night of a 3-night festival. Our favorite artist, Eric Church, was the headliner on Friday. Church has a song called “Springsteen” and he tells the crowd every time he sings it that he wants to connect that moment with a melody, and create a memory that will last forever. Unfortunately the melodies and memories we left Las Vegas with are the sound of repetitive machine gun fire and the memories of 100’s of people being shot, killed, and massacred right in front of us.
The night before was Saturday night and we decided early on that would be our night to “do vegas.” We went to the concert, then hit up Hakkasan to see Tiesto, one of our favorite DJs. As is custom in Vegas, the show went on until the wee hours of the morning, and by the time we stepped outside for the first time Sunday morning, we were blinded by the already-risen sun.
So yeah, Sunday was off to a rough start already. We went back to our hotel on the north end of the strip and slept the day away, prepping for the final night of the festival. Neither of us felt great as Vegas had taken its toll on our aging bodies, reminding us that we weren’t 21 anymore. Are we too old for this? I don’t know… maybe?!
By 6:00 PM we had gotten enough rest and began to get ready for the show. We really wanted to see Jake Owen, who played a magnificent set just before the final act of the weekend, Jason Aldean, was set to take the stage.
The crowd was in high spirits. There were thousands of people there, but you could still move around, and even get close to the stage if you wanted. We watched Jake Owen from no more than 15 feet from the front of the stage.
After Jake’s set we made our way to the bathrooms and then headed to the merch tent to pick up a poster, as we do for every show we attend. We contemplated waiting until after Jason Aldean’s set to get merchandise, but decided to go ahead and get it first, not knowing that we would never get a chance to visit the merch tent again.
Gear in hand, we headed back up to the main stage, but for whatever reason, we decided not to fight our way up to the front like we had done for all the other acts. We stayed about 50 feet back and toward the far side of the venue, away from where the shooter ultimately rained down his destruction.
About 5 songs into the set, we heard gunshots. At the time they sounded like gunshots, but we assumed they must be fireworks. Either way, it put me on high alert. I was already looking for the nearest exit and moving my wife in that general direction, just in case. About 30 seconds later, more shots rang out. This time, the sound was closer. I looked up at the stage and saw the band being escorted off. The music stopped, the lights went up, and panic ensued.
We moved quickly towards the exit. By that time I knew exactly what needed to be done and I was relatively calm all things considered, as was my amazing wife, Sarah. When shots rang out, we took cover. At one point we were on the ground near a set of risers with 40-50 other people, just piled on top of each other, trying to stay alive.
I wanted no part of being a sitting duck, so I grabbed Sarah as soon as the shooter’s magazine clip emptied. He went to reload, and we went to get out of there as fast as possible. I can run and I have been in high-pressure situations in the past, but this was something entirely different. It wasn’t just me I was protecting. I was not going to let anything happen to Sarah. She was getting run into, tripped, and caught in the mix of what can only be described as a stampede. She was strong, she was steady, and she was the reason we got out alive. She was right there with me and even though shots were continuing to ring out, I felt like we were in a safer spot than before, when we were inside the venue. By now we had made our way to the Hooters Casino and Hotel from the back side of the venue and started heading back towards the strip.
X – Shooter, Green – Venue, Blue – Escape Route
We didn’t know it then, but that was our first mistake and it could have cost us our lives. As we approached the MGM on the strip, we saw people flooding from the building and apparently we had headed right back towards the shooter. Something was telling me to just keep moving, and so we did. Towards the back of the MGM, we saw taxis lined up to pick up folks and so we jumped in one and demanded a quick u-turn. The driver of the cab had no clue what was going on. It was pandemonium, and people were just trying to get away.
We opened the door as 2 young kids were pleading for help, so they jumped in with us. The cabbie was yelling at them to get out but cooler heads prevailed and we were able to get out of dodge. At that moment, the girl that got into the cab was frantically trying to reach her mother who was left behind. She was able to reach her on cell and her mom informed her that she was sheltered underneath the stage helping triage the wounded.
People were shot in cold blood. People were murdered. Bullets were flying everywhere. You could hear the ricochet of bullets off metal, of the dust kicking up from the ground, the screams, the chaos. It was all too real and a night I will never forget. I am not sure we will ever be the same, but we have our lives. Others were not so lucky.
In the immediate aftermath, the city was absolute chaos. News had not spread quickly and it seemed that no one in Vegas knew what was going on. We turned on the police scanner and the taxi driver had his scanner on. We heard multiple reports of numerous shooters, bombs, and more. All we could think about was getting out of town, right away. The media and police has crafted a story for us in a very quick way and I encourage everyone to be open to the possibilities that they don’t want us to know the truth.
We had a flight booked for 8:00am the next morning but the airport had been shut down and flights were being diverted. Once we were able to secure an internet connection, we booked a rental car. We packed our bags as quickly as possible and hailed a cab for the airport.
Once we got to the rental car center, we got the hell out of there. Sayonara, Las Vegas. See ya when we see ya, but honestly, we’ll probably never go back.
At this point, I don’t even think we can see a live show again. I hope that’s not the case because we love live music, but right now, the joy is gone. Life will never be the same.
There are few things I want to address:
Survivors guilt is a real thing but the guilt for me doesn’t just start with wondering why we made it out alive and 59 of our fellow brothers and sisters were murdered in cold blood.
I feel a massive amount of guilt about a lot of things. First, my kids. Should we have never left them? All I could think about during the shooting was getting my wife and myself home safe to our kids, and how I didn’t want to leave them without parents.
I also feel the weight of not going back into the venue to help the wounded. It’s in my nature to run to the fight, not from it. But this night was different. All I wanted to do was get my wife and myself to safety. I feel like a coward now that’s it’s over but I also know that the only thing that would have happened by returning to the scene was that I would be potentially murdered. I was not prepared to die last night. But something in me died anyway. My love for live music – my gypsy soul – are gone. Maybe it’s temporary, and maybe not. But, all I can think about is holding my kids and that there are 59 people who will never get the chance to hold their loved ones again.
This isn’t the America I grew up in but it’s the one I gotta figure out how to raise my kids in. And this day is a dark day for our future. One I won’t forget, and one you won’t forget, and one our country will never be the same after.
There are so many things I want to say. Ultimately, I’m just sorry you killed yourself before the SWAT team could make it into your room and blow your head off. If you truly acted alone you are a coward and disgrace to humans. The story however, does not completely add up for me and I still have a lot of questions that I hope will one day be answered.
Sarah never ceases to amaze me with her strength, her grace, and her guts. She is the reason I am alive today. She was cool, calm, and collected and every essence of the grace you expect from a walking angel. There were many points during the event that she faced major adversity yet she stayed with me step by step and never showed an ounce of quit.
Where we go from here:
My life has changed, perhaps forever, and perhaps for just a short time. Either way, this massacre will never leave me. Every day I will mourn those who died and remember I was left on this earth for a reason.
*Below is the video my wife shot as we were fleeing the scene. It’s hard to watch/listen to but if you have not seen it and want to know what was going through our minds…it’s all there.