It has been over a week since the Las Vegas shooting and five days since I’ve returned to San Francisco. I initially started to blog about the night when we were all hiding in our friends’ room but deleted the post before even publishing it because 1) I did not want to recall that night’s events and 2) out of respect for the victims, survivors, and the first responders. I’ve had a few people that had asked me if I planned on blogging at all last week and in particular, about the tragedy, but my answer was a firm “no.” However, upon returning to work on Thursday and being confronted by 110 pounds of inconsiderate and insensitive ignorance, I feel that I should write about this.
We finished dinner at the Aria just shortly after 10:00PM on Sunday night and decided to stick around for a bit just so we could digest. The Mr. and our friend had plans for visiting Grand Canyon and leaving Vegas at 4:00 in the morning so our friend returned to the room for an early night in. The Mr. left for CVS to pick up some necessities while the P.A. and I stuck around the casino. The Mr. returned in about 30 minutes and decided to stick around with us for a little bit.
At about 10:45PM, the P.A. returned from the restroom and notified me that he overheard people discussing an active shooting at the Mandalay Bay. My familiarity with the strip goes only from Caesar’s Palace to MGM, anything beyond that is beyond me. For whatever reason, I thought I heard the Mr. say “yes” when I asked him if the Palazzo (where we’re staying) was next to Mandalay Bay, so I asked him to stick around the Aria a bit until we find out what’s going on. The P.A. stayed on top of the updates via Twitter and shortly after, there were multiple “reports” of a shooter at “multiple casinos” on the strip. I asked the P.A. to track down the Mr. and to tell him we’ll be staying in our friends’ room upstairs for a bit until things clear up. The P.A. had barely sat back down next to me at the machine and the next thing I heard was someone screaming “oh my God” and the entire casino was running in our direction towards the lobby.
I initially wanted to run in the opposite direction as that’s where the Mr. was, but with everyone stampeding and dragging me in the general direction, the P.A. and I ended up with a group of strangers tucked behind a bar by the lobby. The next five minutes can only be worded as a lot of fear, a lot of confusion, and a lot of panic. I had no idea where the Mr. was and could only hope he found a place to hide and is safe. The P.A. advised everyone with us to silence their phones for fear of giving our position away. Having the P.A. with me was my only source of comfort in this chaotic situation. The only thoughts that were running through my mind were 1) I hope the Mr. is safe, 2) I hope my parents won’t be too devastated, 3) this is it – never once had I stopped to contemplate whether or not I actually heard any gunshots. The Mr. called me at 11:17PM, sounding the most frantic I’ve ever heard him, asking me where I was and telling me he wanted to come find me. I had to beg him to stay where he was and to not move away from cover. As the commotion died down, the strangers that were with us started to calm down and disperse, one man stuck his phone up to record the madness while a woman exclaimed that she left her money in the machine. Is this really what our world has come down to? Nevermind.
At 11:20PM, the P.A. and I cautiously raced to the guest elevators as I called the Mr. to meet us there. The next minute was near torture as I watched more people still running for cover and the Mr. still hasn’t shown up yet. When he finally made it to us, the three of us rushed for the elevator to go to our friends’ room. Once we entered the room, we locked all locks on the door and immediately turned on the news. We began to receive text message upon text message from friends, the first one I received was from my brother-in-law at 11:34PM. We spent the next 5 hours watching the news, waiting for official reports, and anticipating answers. I had to keep begging the Mr. and our friend to cancel their plans for Grand Canyon as it was simply not safe out there and they weren’t able to leave the strip anyway. It was when our friend finally made the call to car rental that I was finally able to breathe.
At about 11:45PM, the screen reported 2 dead and 20 wounded.
At about 3:30AM, the screen reported 20 dead and over 200 wounded.
When we woke up at 7:00AM, the new and currently finalized numbers were 58 dead and 527 wounded.
Vegas hasn’t been the same and will never be the same to me again. All of Monday was spent in constant fear and paranoia. The Mr. treated me to a $200 massage and spa morning that I can only wish I was able to enjoy more. When the P.A. and I finished our spa morning, we met up with the Mr. and friend back at our room at the Palazzo for a late lunch off the strip. The entire day, the P.A. had acted more like a body guard than a friend and future P.A. These gestures I would normally find amusing but given the circumstances, I was extremely grateful even though it did add more stress to myself. We had dinner at the Aria Buffet that evening and as much as I wanted to enjoy dinner with great company, I simply couldn’t. I sat idle and tense most of the evening and when a table of women bursted out laughing, I’d mistaken it for screaming for a split second. I was constantly scanning the restaurant and had been the most paranoid than I’d ever been. We opted for an early return to our rooms as we were all exhausted from the previous night. The P.A. and our friend returned to their room at the Aria and the Mr. and I returned to our room at the Palazzo. The Mr. voiced that he wanted to gamble a bit when we returned and I reluctantly agreed to let him go downstairs for a little bit. To be honest, I was super scared to be left alone in the room and I constantly looked in the hallway through the peephole and repeatedly thought of where I could hide if I heard anything.
Tuesday was a lot better than Monday. The abundance of rest I was finally able to get did wonders for my mind. Though still on my toes, I was able to enjoy a nice lunch and a relaxing afternoon at the Cosmopolitan with everyone. It was in the early evening when we returned to the Palazzo to get ready for dinner, the resort seemed to be packed and we noticed a lot of people dressed in formal wear. I asked one of the casino workers what was going on and she said it’s just a convention or conference of some sort – so now I have to keep in mind that the casino will be crowded tonight. We made our way to the restaurant and all was fine until we were seated. The ambiance in the restaurant was great but the crowds and abundance of noise was not what I wanted. I wanted somewhere a little less crowded and a little less noisy, but I guess that’s just asking for a little too much in Vegas. I was once again constantly scanning the restaurant and my ears were constantly scouting for sharp noises like shattering glass or china for example, preparing a way to hide or escape. I was once again stressed. We returned to the casino floor after dinner and we noticed a guy in formal wear running towards a crowd of people. The four of us froze to observe to make sure that it was just a false alarm and thank goodness it was. People, please do not run indoors unless it was absolutely necessary, especially in times like these. The casino was pretty loud and shortly after, I just wanted to return to the room and be in bed. As it was our last night in Vegas, the Mr. wanted to find one of his favorite dealers at the Palazzo so I let him, but only after he escorted me back to the room.
This was not at all how I had imagined this trip to be. The Mr. and friend were supposed to enjoy an adventurous day at the Grand Canyon, the P.A. and I were supposed to enjoy a nice spa morning and an afternoon tea session. We were supposed to feel safe walking around the strip any time of day. This wasn’t the case. The tragedy occurred on our first night there and like I said, Vegas will never be the same again. This 64 year old terrorist – I don’t care what anyone says, he killed 58 people, wounded 527, terrorized 22,000, and instilled fear in an entire nation, he is a terrorist – has forever changed Las Vegas. The only place that I call my “home away from home” being that the Mr. and I are there so often. I can never enjoy it like I used to.
I returned to work on Thursday to be confronted by a colleague who apparently found it appropriate to ask if I had fun in Vegas. I couldn’t help but stare at her defensively and ask if she has a clue what happened. Her response? “Well yeah, but you’re okay.” Let me tell you, while we were fortunate to have not been at the concert, we still got a taste of the terror it caused. While I may have not been physically hurt and am extremely grateful to be still alive, there are still the pain and trauma that the naked eye will never see. Unless you’ve ran for cover for fear of losing your life and got separated from your spouse while doing so, do not tell me that I am okay. I no longer feel safe going anywhere, I can honestly say that I don’t even feel safe in my own home. I have a relatively small bladder and after getting a UTI last year, it’s been more nervous than ever. Using the restroom at night has become the norm for me but now I find it difficult to even leave my room to use the restroom at night.
I want to briefly address the trolls who keep commenting how “stupid and senseless” people at other establishments were for running in chaos that night upon the release of many, many, videos on social media. When you honestly believe your life is in jeopardy, you don’t stop to think “hm, I didn’t hear any gunshots, I’ll just stay put” – you run. You do everything you can to stay alive. Nobody will stop when the vast majority is running for cover. Not everyone has military training. Not everyone will assess what to do when they hear that there is an active shooter. “Common sense” in this situation is to get as far away as you can from the site. I find it difficult to swallow that people will take advantage of a tragedy to highlight their “superiority” in life-threatening situations. I’ve also come across another colleague that said “you were so far away from it, why would you freak out?” Again, unless you were there, don’t assume that all was okay.
It will be a work in progress in terms of recovering from all of this. I was born with quite a capacity for fear and this has only added to it. But like the aftermath of 9/11, I will and have slowly gotten over my fear of flying. Like when I lost my brother to homicide and the murderer still at large, I will and have slowly gotten over my fear of leaving my home at night. Hopefully with time, I will slowly recover from my newfound fear of crowds, loud noises, and the dark.
“Thank you” to Dominic and Ray for sharing your room and beds with the Mr. and I that night. “Thank you” to everyone that immediately checked up on us. “Thank you” to the first responders that acted to protect this community. And “thank you” to whoever/whatever I should thank for the fact that I still have my husband by my side.