While I roamed the casino floor of Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Sunday night, a man in the same building on the 32nd floor opened fire on concert goers across the street.
I entered the hotel about 10 p.m., and after a few minutes, saw a group of three or four men scramble out of a restaurant and head toward for what I assumed was a restroom. It seemed extremely odd because they moved quickly, and appeared to be in a state of panic.
As I walked toward The Shoppes at Mandalay Place, which connects Mandalay Bay to the Luxor Hotel, a security guard walked toward me and others on the floor level.
“Everybody must leave now!” he shouted. “Get out of here! Go to the Luxor!”
The crowd began to scurry to the escalator and stairs that led up to the shops that run north for about 300 yards to the Luxor Hotel.
I ran to the escalator with the group and nobody pushed or shoved. Some looked back as we ran through the exquisite, spacious hallway area lined with shops and restaurants on both sides.
Everybody seemed confused as to what was happening.
Then I thought I heard “Pop, pop, pop,” like firecrackers.
That was when the crowd began to sprint toward the Luxor. I sprinted, too. All I could envision was a gunman or gunmen chasing us.
My heart pounded and I figured this could be the end for me. I wondered what the ride would be like in the ambulance. I didn’t think about experiencing pain, other than, “if it happens it happens.” It would be a first-time experience getting shot.
I stopped to catch my breath, and figured I should be in better shape than this, but at the same time “so far, so good.”
It being my third night at the Luxor, I knew the way I needed to run to get to a safe place.
Once in the Luxor, it was down an escalator that had stopped, through the lobby and down another hallway to the room elevators.
I glanced around at some of the people in the Luxor lobby and hallways. Women were crying. I heard one woman say, “We were right there!”
I joined the others in the elevator and pushed 17 for the floor where my wife and I were staying. Inside the elevator, a man tried to comfort his wife or date.
She was shaking.
“We’re OK now,” he said.
“No, we’re not OK,” she said.
“We’ll be OK as soon when we get to the room,” he said.
My wife Mary already was in our room. After dinner at a restaurant at The Shoppes at Mandalay Place, she went back to the room about 9:30 p.m., while I checked out Mandalay Bay.
“Man, I had to run as fast as I could just now from Mandalay Bay to here,” I told Mary when I was safe inside our room.
I immediately switched on the TV and a local news station reported there was an active shooter at Mandalay Bay. Initial reports indicated one person dead and a few injured. TV news crews were kept several blocks away from the scene.
An emotional Mary then said: “Thank you for running!”
We continued to watch the news and learned about emergency crews on the scene from North Las Vegas, Henderson and other Clark County locations.
Luxor Hotel is on the west side of the Las Vegas Strip. Our window overlooked the scene below where a massacre had just occurred.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, we could hear the music of the fourth annual Route 91 Harvest Festival from our hotel room. It is a country music event similar to Tooele County’s Country Fan Fest.
We didn’t know this annual event was happening near our hotel until we checked in and watched the crowd on the sidewalk walking to and from the festival.
In general, I like music. The first night was annoying while trying to sleep. But by the second and third nights, I started to feel the rhythm of the drums; the bands were polished regardless of the style of music.
“They’re not amateurs,” I told Mary. “Those drummers sound really good.”
While watching the newscasts about the shooting Sunday night and into Monday morning, we began to doze off. Then at about 1 a.m., a buzzer blared in our room.
“Stay in your room. The Luxor is in lockdown until further notice,” said a voice through the intercom.
“We’re in a war zone,” I said to Mary.
The intercom message repeated a few more times throughout the night. Another message blared at about 4:30 a.m. that it was OK to leave the room.
Our traveling partners, Perry and Cathy Dunn, who were staying on the 10th floor, called our room at about 7:30 a.m.
“Can you guys be ready in a half hour? Let’s get out of here,” Cathy said to Mary on the phone.
We already had the TV on. We learned that the gunman on the 32nd floor had killed 58 people and wounded more than 500.
He shot at the crowd continuously from 10:08 p.m. to 10:18 p.m., according to media reports. It took about 75 minutes from the first shot until the shooter was found dead in his hotel room.
While Mary and I were in our room, Perry went down to the lobby early Monday morning to see if he could get us checked out to leave. He said it was then he realized the scope of what had happened.
“The halls, lobby and casino were filled with people covered with blankets, trying to sleep,” he said. “I figured they were guests of the Mandalay Bay ordered to go to the Luxor, not allowed back to the Mandalay Bay.
“I felt a quiet that I hadn’t felt since 9/11,” Perry said.
“I heard crying, whispering, and nothing from the casino,” he added. “So I walked out as far as I could go, took a few pictures of the Mandalay Bay and the crime scene, then we left. Leaving was not fun since everything was blocked off. We finally had to go south towards LA before finding an open on-ramp to northbound Interstate 15.”
When we left the hotel, I looked at people’s faces and many appeared sedated. One woman’s face was scratched and bruised.
All four of us received texts and calls about our status on Monday. We certainly felt the love and concern.
We engaged in some small talk as we traveled back to Utah. As we passed Mesquite, Nevada, we talked about what we had heard about the killer. Mary and Cathy answered text messages. I stared out the window at the Virgin River Gorge.
Earlier that morning, a call from my sister, who was concerned, nearly brought me to tears.
Having felt her emotion, I thought of the emotional and psychological impact of what had happened the night before — the grief and sorrow felt by all the families and friends of the 58 people who died in one night, in the same place, by the hands of one man.
I cannot fathom what that experience was like for those at the festival.