It was supposed to be a great end to an epic weekend. A last day of country music and cold beer alongside the Las Vegas Strip at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.
“We were just having a good time, drinking beer and talking and dancing,” says Justin Zimmerman, a DJ from Iowa who was in town visiting local friends. “It was my turn to buy beer.”
Country star Jason Aldean was almost 30 minutes into his headlining set when a series of pops sounded above the music. For a moment, no one reacted. Zimmerman assumed that the lighting or sound systems had malfunctioned, but when the pops resumed, he had a horrifying realization: They were gunfire.
Across Las Vegas Boulevard and high above the festival, a man identified as 64-year-old Nevada resident Stephen Paddock, had smashed through the windows of his 32nd-floor hotel room inside Mandalay Bay and was raining bullets onto the crowd. They came in bursts. Pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop. Then quiet. Then another staccato assault.
Zimmerman was towards the back of the outdoor Las Vegas Village festival venue, with most of the 22,000 people in attendance in front of him, and in those seconds of silence the mob poured towards him, a flood of people literally running for their lives.
Zimmerman felt surprisingly calm. He knelt behind a trash can, moved and took cover again. Alone amid the chaos, when he felt safe enough, he made a choice.
“I just made the decision to get out of there.” First onto Las Vegas Boulevard, where he filmed a 10-second snap of gunfire blasting out of the golden casino tower, then into the Luxor to take shelter.
As shocked country fans fled Route 91, climbing over fences and sometimes each other in a bid to escape, Las Vegas opened its doors and welcomed them. Casino security guards hustled people inside safe havens. Restaurants hurried them under tables and counters. Airport buses shuttled them to the UNLV campus, where the Thomas & Mack Center became an emergency shelter, receiving so many donations in a matter of hours it had to reroute supplies to other locations.
This morning, Las Vegas continued to rally. As the death toll rose to 58 with more than 500 people wounded—the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history—blood banks sported long lines, MGM Resorts gathered crisis counselors, Allegiant Air offered free flights to and from Vegas to victims and their families and a GoFundMe page to support victims of the mass shooting raised more than $1.1 million in just eight hours.
A Beautiful Perspective was born in Las Vegas, and we are proud to call Southern Nevada home. The recovery work is just beginning, but we know Las Vegas is too resilient, strong and brave to be bowed by any coward with a gun. We pledge to help in the coming weeks and months in any way we can.
If you need help or want to offer it, here are some resources to keep in mind:
- A GoFundMe page collecting donations to assist victims of the shooting is well on its way to a $2 million goal. The page was established by Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Click here to donate.
- A call for blood donations to help the more than 500 victims injured in the shooting received a strong response, and by 11 a.m. long lines had formed at donation centers around the valley. If you are in the area and want to donate blood, make a reservation at UnitedBloodServices.org.
- If you know someone who was at the event or in the area Sunday night and they have not been in touch, contact Las Vegas Metro Police at 1-866-535-5654.
- If you have information to share—photos, video or other information that may be helpful to authorities investigating the crime—you can contact the FBI’s Las Vegas department at 1-800-255-5324.
- If you or a loved one needs counseling, there are both national and local Las Vegas resources ready to help with support and other resources. MGM Resorts has set up a crisis hotline at 702-836-6655, and is establishing grief counselors at its Las Vegas properties for guests and staff who need support.
- Allegiant Air, which is headquartered in Las Vegas, is offering free flights to victims and their families coming to or from Las Vegas. If you’re in need of transportation, contact [email protected].
- A number of Las Vegas hotels are offering free rooms to the families of victims responding to the tragedy. Contact Station Casinos at [email protected], Boyd Gaming at 888-582-6278 and mention offer code ZSTRIP, or South Point at 866-791-7626.