Two years after Route 91 Harvest Festival…
I want to start this personal blogpost by honoring the 58 angels we lost two years ago today. As many of may already know, I along with my husband Igor and some friends survived the mass shooting that occurred in Las Vegas October 1st, 2017 where over 422 were wounded tallying the count 851 injured during the chaos and 58 angels lost their lives.
I thought about what I should write about…should I tell the story? Should I talk about the fact that I felt like I was was frozen in time and couldn’t run fast enough – partially due to wearing sandals that day, choosing whiskey as my drink of choice and plain paralyzation in fear. Or should I tell you about the look in Igor’s eyes when I told him to just leave me and then out of no where someone, a stranger, came up and started dragging me across the pavement to get me to move. Or should I just talk about the weekend itself and how amazing it was up until 10:05 pm. Or what about the fact that we were glued to the television for days watching the shooting footage over and over – something the professionals call “retraumatization”.
Don’t let it define you.
Part of my therapy is not letting situations like this define me. Stephen Paddock (the shooter) is not going to define my life. I am not living scared, however, I am a much more aware of my surroundings. Another part of my therapy last year was actually seeing Jason Aldean finish the set. It was exhilarating for the crowd to finally feel closure – He ended up receiving a Route 91 sign from the crowd, signed by many Route 91 Harvest Festival Survivors and gave homage to all in the crowd. To say it was amazing was an understatement.
I am not sure if people really think about this a lot but Jason Aldean has his story too and I am sure his healing as been just as difficult. I ask myself questions like – is he always going to play “the song” at 10:05pm every show? The song ,”When she says baby”, that was actually playing when we realized what was happening is actually one of my favorite songs – something about the lyrics:
“Some days it’s tough just gettin’ up
Throwin’ on these boots and makin’ that climb
Some days I’d rather be a no-show lay-low ‘fore I go outta my mind”Jason Aldean, “When she says Baby”
It’s interesting to me because it is so fitting to the way that I feel. You have to get out of bed and keep going. You have to throw on those boots and get shit done..
So instead of going through the moments when the shots first fired. I am going to talk about gratitude. I generally try to express gratitude each day in the morning these days. I will say before the Route 91 Harvest Festival I truly didn’t understand what that meant and even felt like. Flash forward two years later, I definitely understand the feeling of gratitude. So you’re probably thinking, why is she talking about gratitude? No one should have to go through anything like that. Gratitude my ass – she’s crazy.
Here is the thing…Gratitude shifts your focus and brings positivity in your life. When bad things happen you need positivity – that brings better mental and physical health. This is is the way that I heal. This is the way that I can have empathy for others going through something horrible in their lives.
- I am grateful to be here.
- I am grateful to have a husband like Igor who not only is my partner in life but saved my life during the attack in Vegas.
- I am grateful that I have him to talk to. Many of my friends spouses weren’t there during the concert and they have found it difficult to express their feelings to their loved ones.
- I am grateful to have a job that I love that is constantly surrounding me with happiness and life changing events.
- I am grateful that I still have country music in my life.
- I am grateful for my #route91family where #lovewins
But not all days feel this way – there is a long road to healing. Another song really stuck out in that time of healing. A song by Kenny Chesney called “Better Boat” lyrics as follows:
“I breathe in, I breathe out
Got friends to call who let me talk about
What ain’t working, what’s still hurtin’
All the things I feel like cussing out
Now and then I let it go
Around the waves I can’t control
I’m learning how to build a better boat”Kenny Chesney
That is all you can do. Build a better boat. Thanks Jenni Nering from SocalBni for pointing this out. She and her husband along with her three boys are survivors as well.
Another part of my therapy was meeting up with 5 other survivors the second night of Jason Aldean’s return to Southern California and taking their photos, one of the girls was actually shot in the arm and on the back. Celebrating their triumph of getting through the year by taking their photos was a great moment for us. We are now apart of one another’s story and I wanted to share these photos here.
You can also see the news story here: https://abc7ny.com/1-year-later-las-vegas-shooting-survivors-attend-jason-aldean-concert/4376582/
We all have a story.
If you were to asking me what the most terrifying moment of that night was? Here I will give some details..
I think one of the scariest moments was actually getting separated from Igor after everything happened. Once we fled the concert area, we continued running and made it to Hooters Casino where I immediately dove under the first craps table I could see. There were quite a few of us there – people were bleeding, crying and just shaking with fear. But the regular casino players weren’t even aware of what had just happened – I mean neither did we – was it a terrorist attack? Were we going to get bombed? What really was happening? Are we safe here? Just the fear of the unknown.
So we headed over to MGM – I went ahead a got rid of my one sandal as we crossed the street since it was pointless. So here we come barefoot, into MGM with a super nice couple who convinced us it would good to get closer to where we were staying. So then Igor and I begin making that walk toward Polo Towers through the hotel…Then all of a sudden a swarm of people came running into the hotel from the streets.
The strip found out something was going on and more chaos ensued.
Igor and I were separated during this time. He ended up making it back to the hotel and I jumped behind another gambling table. Still not knowing that the incident was isolated to one gunman. After that we were all on lockdown – no leaving. There were reports of bomb threats and second shooters. Calls were pouring in to my phone and of course it was dying because I forgot to charge it the night before – typical Vegas mistake. Thank god for the ladies that let me charge my phone on their charger because I had friends calling in and checking on me and giving the info for actually had happened.
The shooter had been found dead in his room surrounded by all of his guns that he brought into the hotel through the service elevator.
Once MGM decided to release those who were staying elsewhere I was able to make my way back to the hotel. Not a soul was in site and I was on the backside of all the hotels.The barefoot walk back to our hotel at three in the morning was probably the loneliest I have ever felt. I finally made my way back into the lobby of our hotel into Igors arms and we just hugged and cried as we tried to figure out what just happened and what was next. Finally my head hit the pillow and I felt so much gratitude that I was so lucky to be alive.
And you know what…I truly am grateful. Thanks for reading my story.
***sidenote: the FBI returned Igors Joe Josts hat and they found the sandal that I lost on the concert grounds. I let them keep the sandal.
Feel like giving back?
Live Like Bailey: This scholarship honors the life and memory of Bailey Dee Schweitzer, who tragically lost her life at the age of 20 at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on October 1, 2017. The youngest of the 58 who lost their lives that night, she had so much more life to live. Bailey was known as a ray of sunshine who shared love and joy with everyone. Her favorite role in life was that of auntie to her little niece and nephew. One of her greatest desires was to be a teacher and work with children.
In honor of Bailey’s love for children, as well as the youth which she lost that night, this scholarship will be awarded to an individual who wishes to work with children and/or young people. Fields of service would include teaching, guidance counselor, pediatrician, or any of a number of other professions focused on helping children and young people.