I found myself inside the Mandalay Bay
Through a series of events, I found myself inside the Mandalay Bay the night Stephen Paddock enacted his 10-minute reign of terror, killing 59 people and injuring over 500. I started out the night just nine floors above him at a private charity event, but around 9:30 I’d moved downstairs to play poker.
The night was going great, until I sensed something was suddenly wrong. I looked across the casino to see people starting to run, but as the fear spread across the floor our table stayed calm. I was sure that it was just a false alarm, one of those situations where information was miscommunication and group panic set in. The unease was hard to avoid for long though, and as we all began to tense up a casino manager came running over to us. It felt surreal, hearing him tell us “there’s a shooter in the Mandalay Bay, you need to get out of here!” It was like operating on autopilot after that, we booked it out of the casino and found ourselves in a staff hallway. My concept of time felt distorted, but we spent about 45 minutes in that hallway. We had no information. We were being protected by two Mandalay Bay security guards, who were blocking off the motion sensors and trying to cover the doorways.
The belief inside the hotel at the time was that there was a shooter, possibly more than one, inside the hotel. We had no idea he was firing from a window. Some of the people in the hall with us had been keeping the mood light, but as we all watched things unfold on Twitter, desperate for information, everyone went quiet. Social media is a blessing and a curse in serious emergencies. I learned that first hand. There was constant information coming at us, but even the media wasn’t sure what was going on at the time. I saw SWAT teams rushing by. Somebody said that they heard there were bombs planted in the hotel. We began to feel trapped in the hallway. We kept waiting for this thing to blow up or something.
Finally, we were moved to the hotel’s gym, where we could watch the news. People going to the bathroom had to be escorted by police. They moved us again, this time to an employee cafeteria. It was there that we learned the shooting had come from the hotel.
My experience in that cafeteria was where I first started to see people at their best. Everyone in that room was looking out for each other. We were given blankets and food. Those who were upset were comforted by strangers. Some tried to sleep, but I couldn’t.
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