By Brooke Hill | Staff Writer
Bullets began to rain down just Jason Aldean sang the first few words to his hit song “When She Says Baby” on Sunday night in Las Vegas.
This deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history resulted in 59 deaths and 527 injuries as of Monday afternoon, according to the Associated Press.
There are 32 students at Baylor with Las Vegas listed as their hometown in Baylor’s directory.
Early Monday morning, Baylor tweeted “Please join us in praying for all those who lost loved ones or were otherwise affected by last night’s tragic shooting in Las Vegas.”
Santa Ana, Calif., senior Meredith Nagel said she had just left the concert when the shootings started. She had stayed through all of the acts for the three day festival, but she and her brother got the sudden urge to leave in the midst of Aldean’s set just before the shootings started. Her parents were still at the concert.
“When it started happening, they just thought it was fireworks,” Nagel said. “Then the emergency lights lit up onstage and everyone was running, so they started running too because they weren’t sure what was happening. They were really lucky, they were in a group of people where one of them was an off duty police officer. He could tell that the shots were coming from above, because what was hard was that everyone was dropping to the ground to take cover because they didn’t know the shots were coming from above, so hitting the ground made it easier for him to pick them off.”
The police officer helped her parents hide behind a water truck. The police weren’t familiar with the space, Nagel said. They were sending everyone to evacuate but fences were bolted shut, resulting in people being trapped inside or attempting to jump fences. Nagel’s family was staying at the MGM hotel, about a block away from the Mandalay hotel where the shooter was located. She and her brother had just gotten back to their hotel when the shooting began.
“We were in the hotel lobby because we had just left,” Nagel said. “Everyone was running into the hotel bloody and crying.”
Henderson, Nev., junior Emmie Weddell was born and raised in the city of Las Vegas. Her family flew home just hours before the shooting took place, and the airport is just a few minutes away from where the concert was taking place.
“I think they were shocked that it happened so close and in such a close time proximity as well, and that it’s even possible for something so large scale and so destructive to occur so close to our home,” Weddell said. “It’s just shocking. I had a friend from high school — she and her brother were at the concert, and they had to climb a fence to get away from the area of the shooting. They got a little bruised, and got separated for a little while, and they’re both OK, but just the fact that they had to go through something like that is scarring.”
Weddell emphasized that the tragedy took on a whole new meaning when it occurred in a place that she knew and loved.
“With a shooting of this magnitude, it’s hard to imagine what it feels like until it happens to your home…your heart breaks, but it’s just a different emotion when people you know and love are affected by it so directly,” Weddell said.
Bloomington, Ill., junior Nick Miller had a friend who was shot at the concert. His friend lives in Los Angeles, so he noticed that she was at a concert from her Instagram and Snapchat stories Sunday night and didn’t think anything of it. When he woke up Monday morning and heard the news, he realized that she might’ve been at the concert.
“It was pictures of the concert and then afterwards it was a picture of her and her boyfriend in the hospital with bullet hole wounds,” Miller said. “From my knowledge, they were right around where the dude started opening fire…they fell to the floor and her boyfriend covered her and took a couple shots in his arm to shield her. She said it was the most horrifying thing she’s ever experienced, because as the bullets were going off, in the silence they were laying next to all these dead bodies and other people that were bleeding out.”
Her boyfriend had surgery to remove the bullets. Both his friend and her boyfriend are relatively OK.
“It’s just crazy because something like that could really happen anywhere and it sucks if you’re there when something like that happens, and there’s no way to predict when or where,” Miller said.
Lori Fogleman, assistant vice president for media relations and crisis communications said Baylor is praying for those who have suffered from this tragedy.
“Our hearts are shattered at the senseless violence that has claimed the lives of so many innocent people,” Fogleman said “Our deepest prayers are with those have lost loved ones or have family or friends who have been injured.”
Fogleman said there are resources available to any students who were affected by the tragedy in any way.
“Baylor is a caring community of faith, and our mission calls for us to walk alongside our students during difficult and trying times,” Fogleman said. “We have many resources for students who are in need of support or just someone to talk to or pray with, including our counseling center and spiritual life staff, faculty and staff, community leaders and resident chaplains. As our pastoral staff reminds us, we really aren’t made to bear our burdens alone. We all need someone to listen along the way.”
Videos of the Route 91 Harvest Festival show Aldean pausing when the gunshots first fired, but he kept performing for 10-20 seconds after shots were fired. Suddenly, he darts off stage and the music stops. Shouts were heard of “Get down!” and “Take cover!”
SWAT teams using explosives stormed the gunman’s hotel room in the gold-colored glass skyscraper and found he had killed himself. The attacker, Stephen Craig Paddock, a 64-year-old retiree from Mesquite, Nev., had 16 rifles and a handgun with him in the hotel room, according to the Associated Press.
In a statement on his Instagram, Aldean wrote “Tonight has been beyond horrific. I still don’t know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that me and my crew are safe. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night.”
President Trump ordered that the American flag at the White House and at all public buildings across the nation be flown at half-staff.
“Our unity cannot be shattered by evil our bonds cannot be broken by violence,” Trump said. “We call upon the bonds that unite us: our faith, our family and our shared values. We call upon the bonds of citizenship, the ties of community and the comfort of our common humanity.”