Lisa Fine flew in and out of Las Vegas within 10 hours on Wednesday. After what she saw there the night of Oct. 1, it was more than enough.
Five-and-a-half weeks after escaping the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, Fine wanted to retrace her steps to move forward. The Roseville resident joined a crowd of Route 91 Harvest Festival attendees as they re-walked their escape routes on Wednesday and left trinkets behind at memorials for those who died.
Then it was back to California to put the finishing touches on the Route91Strong Benefit Concert, a five-act showcase Friday in Rocklin to fund medical bills and therapy for the massacre’s survivors.
“We decided to take today to honor and respect those whose lives were lost, and then just get right back into life and make a difference,” Fine said Wednesday.
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Fine, 47, jumped at the chance when a friend offered her a last-minute ticket to the Route 91 Harvest Festival in late September. The personal trainer spent the weekend dining, dancing and watching her favorite acts perform in “adult Disneyland,” even scoring passes to watch Sam Hunt’s Saturday show from a VIP area directly to the right of the stage.
Her friends weren’t able to obtain the same premium tickets for Jason Aldean’s concert on Sunday night. Instead, they had to settle for front row in the general audience, a stroke of luck she said turned out to be life-saving.
“Those turned into some of the worst seats for the war scene I saw later,” Fine said. “If we would have been there (Sunday) night, chances are we would be dead.”
A popping sound like fireworks began piercing the crowd midway through Aldean’s set as the gunman unloaded thousands of bullets from the 32nd floor of the neighboring Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. As concertgoers realized what was happening and made a mad dash for the exit, Fine implored her group to huddle in place and try to stay out of the shooter’s line of sight.
Crouched under her seat in a fetal position, Fine watched a man attempting to provide first aid to a loved one. Another man running by slowed as the gunfire paused, staring at the wounded person.
Seeing the wheels turning in his head, Fine cried out “no!” as the stranger sprinted over to help. A hailstorm of bullets resumed from the hotel. None of the three got up after that.
“If I let those feelings come out, I will never stop crying,” Fine said. “Watching and listening to people dying around you, you feel like it’s going to be you as well. Then it’s not, and you’re asking yourself, ‘Why not?’ ”
Fifty-eight people were killed, including Cameron Park resident Kurt Von Tillow and UC Davis alumna Michelle Vo, and 546 were injured in the attack. The gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, shot himself as authorities closed in. He was found to have 23 guns in his hotel room and another 24 between his two homes.
Extensive therapy with Mindi Russell, executive director of Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Sacramento, has helped heal some of Fine’s mental scars. She’s sleeping some now, albeit not well and with the assistance of medication. Knee injuries from tripping while fleeing the scene are also slowly healing after several visits to an orthopedist.
Pasadena attorney Brian Claypool was a few seats down from Fine during Aldean’s concert. The two were later reunited after being interviewed on a CNN segment and co-founded Route91Strong a day later, Claypool said.
The American public seems to have largely moved on from the shooting, Claypool said, as political indictments, natural disasters and mass killings in New York and Texas have filled news cycles. Those who witnessed Paddock’s rampage don’t have the luxury of leaving that night behind.
“My whole word has changed. There’s a new normal in my life,” said Claypool on Wednesday, a festival wristband still dangling from his forearm. “I can’t even be on the freeway because when there’s traffic it feels like I’m trapped, like I’m in the shooting again.”
He met Bryan Hopkins and Ben Carey of Southern rock band Elvis Monroe, who attended Aldean’s show as well, before another interview and later persuaded them to headline the Rocklin benefit concert. Former Fuel guitarist Toryn Green, “The Voice” contestant Rudy Parris and Granite Bay local Ashley Barron will round out the lineup at Strikes Unlimited Halftime Bar & Grill on Friday.
Event organizer Trisha Pickerel said she hopes to fill the bar’s 250-person capacity and raise $15,000 to $20,000. General admission tickets are on sale for $25 and VIP for $50. A guitar signed by Aldean and Luke Bryan, a trip for eight to Cabo San Lucas and sideline VIP passes to a Republic FC game will also be auctioned off Friday.
Proceeds will be distributed amongst victims and their families on a per-case basis, Claypool said.
Route91Strong Benefit Concert
Performers: Elvis Monroe, Toryn Green, Rudy Parris, Ashley Barron and guest DJs from The Wolf 101.5.
When: 7 p.m. to midnight, Friday. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Where: Strikes Unlimited Halftime Bar & Grill, 5681 Lonetree Blvd., Rocklin.
Why: To raise money for victims of the Route 91 Festival shooting in Las Vegas last month, including physical and mental health services.
Tickets: $25 general, $50 VIP. Available on eventbrite.com. Attendees must be 21 or older.