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By Alex Zorensky (as told to Cara E. Sprunk)
Country music is my favorite thing on the planet.
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I dance every Thursday at a country bar in Las Vegas, where I live. Eric Church is my favorite musician — I’ve seen him 12-15 times in concert. I like Jason Aldean a lot too, but until October 1, I’d never seen him perform live. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see two of my favorite country musicians on the same stage in my hometown. I was totally sold on being there.
I attended all three days of the Route 91 Harvest festival and knew probably close to 70 people there. That’s not counting all the new people you kind of meet along the way when you’re at a festival — just getting drinks, dancing, and doing all the fun stuff you’re supposed to be doing at a concert.
I had been on the right side of the stage nearest to Mandalay Bay for most of the festival. That’s where all my friends were and where we had kind of set up our little base camp. I tend to roam a little bit during concerts, and on that Sunday night, I got a text from a friend, so I moved over to a bar on the far side of the stage.
It was there that I heard the gunshots, although it sounded one hundred percent like fireworks. We started looking around for fireworks — everyone did.
Then all of a sudden, people started running.
I remember saying, “just calm down, relax. It’s fireworks. Everyone just slow down.” I started helping people who tripped, telling them to get out of there safely. It wasn’t until I actually saw a girl being carried out — the first actual victim I saw — that it clicked, and I knew definitively that this was a shooting. There was an active shooter.
I ran towards the only cover I could find, which was a metal fence. I turned to my right and saw a girl who was shot. I started yelling to people around me, “Are you shot? Are you hurt?” Many people had just frozen and were sitting against the fence. I said, “If you’re not hurt and you’re not shot, get up and run straight out back.”
I asked if anyone had seen where the shooter was, or if anyone knew what direction the shots were coming from. I was trying to get more information. People had no idea. Never in a million years did we think he was in an elevated position shooting down on us.
I saw an EMT run onto the field with a first aid backpack. I had never been trained in anything like this, but I asked to help and he handed me his walkie talkie and said, “Let’s just identify people who are still alive.”
At this point, the shooting had subsided. We didn’t know if the shooter would start up again at any moment, so we were still being cautious. We started grabbing people and seeing who was still alive and who needed assistance. The EMT was triaging people and then a guy showed up with these metal gates.
We started loading people onto the gates (makeshift stretchers) and running to move them first into the House of Blues bar, which was a covered bar, before bringing them to the street where they would have a chance at getting space in an ambulance.
I can’t even begin to describe how lucky we were when we looked out at the type of people in the crowd. There were tons of military people there, along with law enforcement agents, firefighters, and EMTs. All there to enjoy the concert.
These are the types of people who are at a country music concert — and that was very fortunate.
On my second or third trip carrying people to the road on the improvised stretchers, I came across a girl I knew from dancing on Thursdays. Her name is Angel (couldn’t be more appropriate). When she realized what was happening, she ran and got her truck so that wounded people could start getting loaded into it. We hopped in the truck with two wounded strangers — a man and a woman — and followed the other ambulances to Sunrise Hospital.
Once we got to the emergency room, we realized that there wasn’t enough staff to bring everyone inside. We started grabbing gurneys and unloading people out of cars and into the hospital as they showed up.
Since the massacre, I have wanted to know what happened to the two people we brought to the hospital.
I thought it would be cathartic and helpful for me to see what happened to them — to see if what I did that day actually had an impact. I was able to connect with the girl. We spoke on Friday — and she’s still in the hospital — but she’s alive. This was the most amazing news I could have gotten. She had a gunshot wound through her chest, two broken vertebrae, broken ribs, and a collapsed lung. But she is alive.
I got my first night of sleep after receiving that news.
I went to visit her on Sunday. I’m still waiting to hear from the other guy. The FBI thinks they know who he is, and gave him my contact information. They told me he’s alive in the hospital.
I feel lucky that I was in position to be able to evaluate the situation (and that I wasn’t one of the people needing medical attention myself). I tried to stay calm while others freaked out around me. It was just like a switch in my head flipped, and I wanted to do whatever I could to help the people around me. In that moment, those people felt like my friends and family. They felt like people I knew. They loved the same thing I loved.
I’ve been listening to a little bit of country music since the shooting. Not a lot though.
I listened to Eric Church’s new song and I completely lost it when I heard it. Some of the most fun times in my life (and meeting some of the most incredible people) has happened at festivals and concerts.
As for the future, I’m going to have to feel it out and see if going to another concert or festival is something I’m able to do. I really hope it is. I think it would be terrible to let this guy ruin something that makes so many people happy.
It’s so important for us, as humans, to be nice to one another. There’s a lot of garbage out there now — but please know that other people care. It’s okay that we disagree. There were probably people in the crowd that night who disagreed with me about certain things. But it didn’t matter.
To learn more about the author of this story, Alex Zorensky, follow him on Instagram at @alexzorrozorensky.