“Its something you see on TV and you think it’s only on TV. When you’re really there, you don’t even feel like you’re there,” said Shelly Adams. “After it’s like, okay, how do you pick up the pieces?”
Adams and her boyfriend Adam Blooi, both from Yarmouth, were at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas when a gunman, perched high above on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, opened fire on the crowd, in what was to become the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. As of Monday afternoon, 58 people had been reported killed with more than 500 people injured.
This was the second year that Adams and Blooi had travelled to Las Vegas for the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival. They were travelling with another Yamouth family – Scott and Wendy Sollows and their son Jacob.
“The concert is why we came,” Adams said in an interview from the safety of her hotel room on Monday morning. She talked about how she couldn’t wait to see recording artist Jason Aldean perform.
“He was the last headliner and he had just started his set. He was singing one of his songs and it started, it sounded like fireworks. I thought who would be so rude to do fireworks when there is a concert going on?” she said.
But then came the horrifying realization.
“He stopped playing and it was like, ‘Get down! Get down! That's gunshots,” Adams said. Her boyfriend pushed her down on the bleachers.
The gunshots would stop and then they would start again.
“We could hear the bullets hit tin and we were on aluminum bleachers. After we decided we were going to go under the bleachers and be safe,” she said.
But even then they didn’t know if they really were safe. They didn’t know where the shots were coming from, if there were multiple shooters, if there was a shooter on the ground.
“People were running in chaos,” said Adams, who said they were separated from the Sollows family. (They later found out they had gotten to safety.) But as it was happening, Adams and Blooi worried about how to get to a safe place themselves.
“A cop came and told us that we could move on, to get out, and he was shot in the neck,” Adams said.
The pair went to a hotel where they were told they would be safe. But in the continuing confusion and panic came word that a shooter was present and so everyone fled.
“It was horrific,” Adams said. “We hid in the bushes. We had two ladies with us. We hid with them quite a while. There were so many ambulances and cops. You just didn’t dare move because you didn’t know who or what was around.”
Their hiding place later moved from the bushes to a building, as they continued to contemplate how to get to safety.
“There hadn’t been any shooting for a couple of hours so we said we need to get back to the strip where we are staying, where there wasn’t any shooting being reported,” Blooi said.
They took a side street and saw blood and medical gloves on the ground. Blooi, a registered nurse, also saw IVs.
“We walked a little farther and we came across a body covered with a blanket and then a little bit further there was another body covered with a blanket,” he said.
Asked when they finally felt safe, he said, “Probably when we got into out hotel room and put the blinds down. It took us three hours to finally make it back.”
He talked about what it had been like, lying down on the bleachers between the seats as the sound of bullets rang out.
“I just wanted to stay low and not be a target. So that’s what we did,” he said, fearing they might get hit by a stray bullet.
Adams says there is no doubt this has been a life-changing experience. She said it was a shocking and frightening thing to live through.
“We’re looking at each other saying our goodbyes,” she said. “Adam was calling my father telling him what’s going on and I was saying ‘I love you,’ because it could be the last time. Adam is calling his parents afterwards and saying, ‘We’re safe.’”
“This is a place we frequent often because we feel safe and we like to come here, but I know one thing I won’t do again is any big outdoor venues or any big indoor venues. Nothing like that. I won’t go in a crowd,” Adams said.
And yet even as the couple was still trying to absorb what had happened hours earlier, they were thinking of others.
“They’re looking for people to donate blood, because they need so much blood here so I’m going to go out and do what I can do,” Blooi said, with Adams adding, “Right now we’re okay and we want to make sure other people are okay and go give blood.”