When the first shots rang out Sunday night, many of the people in the concert crowd in Las Vegas thought the noise was coming from fireworks. Then the horrifying reality became apparent.
“I looked at a cop and asked him what that was, and he had his mouth open, terrified-looking, and said, ‘I don’t know,’ ” Sacramento Realtor Michelle Massagli said Monday, hours after she and her husband survived the worst mass shooting in modern American history. “They all went to their trunks, grabbed their bullet-proof vests and that’s when my husband said, ‘Get down right ... now.’ ”
For the next six hours, Massagli and others endured the horror of not knowing whether the danger was over as they cowered in a series of hiding places, ending up in a conference room at the Tropicana where two off-duty and unarmed police officers overturned conference tables and used huge banquet tablecloths to tie knots over the doorknobs, then shut off the lights.
“It was terrifying, terrifying, just helpless,” Massagli said, recounting how she removed her bracelets for fear they would clang and attract a shooter to the room. “There was something about being in a room and, if that door opens, we’re gonna die.”
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At least 59 people were killed and more than 500 others injured Sunday night when a gunman opened fire on an open-air country music concert from a 32nd-floor room of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. The scope of the horror began to emerge Monday from accounts of Massagli and others who fled from the bullets. Even after the gunman, Stephen Paddock, killed himself and was identified by authorities as the lone shooter, Massagli said she still wonders if there were more people firing on the crowd.
Massagli was in Las Vegas with her husband, Brandon King, to celebrate the 21st birthday of his younger sister, Madison Gouveia, who lives in Santa Cruz. The three of them ran away from the carnage together, and Massagli recalled the hours as rumors swept through the area that there was a bomb at the Luxor, another shooter at New York, New York. Eventually she and others made their way to safety and officials began to render aid. It was then that Massagli saw the aftermath.
“It looked like a hurricane relief scene,” she said. “They were giving out sheets, blankets and water. There were people walking around all over with blood all over them, a lot of people. Those who didn’t have blood on them said they saw their friend getting shot in the stomach, or they saw them get shot in the back.”
Sacramento residents Chip and Lisa Shau were also there for the final night of the three-day concert event. They recounted how they ran from the sound of gunfire, dropping to the pavement at times and jumping over victims who apparently had fallen from being shot. At one point, he and other men jumped on a fence surrounding the venue to flatten it so they and others could escape.
“That’s when we started seeing people trying to get out of there,” Chip Shau said in a telephone interview with The Sacramento Bee as he and his wife waited for an airplane out of Las Vegas on Monday afternoon. “They were bloody, and that’s when we knew it was real.
“We were ducking behind cars. It just seemed like it went on for 15 or 20 minutes, but I guess it was less than 10 minutes.”
Survivors arriving at Sacramento International Airport on Monday still were shaken as they recalled the terror of the night before.
“It was awful,” said Samantha Moose, 27, who was in Las Vegas with three friends from Roseville for the concert. “You don’t ever think you’re going to be in that kind of situation. You see this stuff happen on TV all the time and when it’s you, it’s just unreal.”
Moose said she saw victims on the ground and bloodied people walking around, and that the sound of gunfire seemed unending.
“It was hundreds of rounds,” Moose said.
Others took to social media to describe their experiences.
The Modesto Bee quoted Frank Ball of Clovis, who wrote that a bartender next to him was shot at the concert and “we helped at least 15 people who were shot in my area.”
Jennifer Carr, assistant dean for student affairs McGeorge School of Law, posted on Facebook that she had returned from Las Vegas on Sunday night but was worried about others there.
“I’m the rare Las Vegas native, and I’m at a loss for how to support my hometown,” Carr wrote.
California Gov. Jerry Brown ordered flags at the Capitol flown at half staff and issued a statement of support.
“Our prayers and deepest sympathies are with the families and loved ones of those killed and injured in last night’s tragic and senseless shooting and we stand with the people of Nevada in this difficult time,” Brown’s statement said.
Others sought to help through GoFundMe pages or in other ways. The Roseville Police Department posted a photo on Facebook and Twitter of its officers donating blood Monday morning.
“Officers are donating blood this morning to help with the need in Las Vegas,” the department wrote. “BloodSource tells us they’re part of a nationwide network of donation sites that sends donations anywhere they’re needed.”
Even those who were not at the concert when the shooting began reacted with fear that a friend or colleague may have been hurt.
“Last night, the texts started coming in as we were watching some of the TV news,” said Terry Hennessy, chief executive officer of Sacramento-based Senior Softball USA, who is in Las Vegas running a tournament with teams from 33 states and Guam. “At first it said, ‘live shooting,’ and in Las Vegas actually a shooting happens every day.
“And then they started to talk about the scope of the shooting, and of course you could hear the sirens all over.”
Tournament officials and team leaders quickly began reaching out to make certain that their members were safe.
“As you can imagine, it’s been pandemonium down here,” Hennessy said from Las Vegas on Monday, where all of his employees and officials had reported in unharmed, and his organization announced plans to continue its tournament.
“This tragedy occurred on the last evening of the third session of the World Masters Championships here in Las Vegas,” Hennessy said in a note posted to players on the group’s website. “While we do not know the reason for this attack, we firmly believe that the best answer to any form of terrorism is to continue our lives. Therefore, the fourth session of the World Masters Championships will continue as planned next weekend.”