Our brush with the Las Vegas infamy

October 2nd, 2017 by Ken

Jan and I were in Las Vegas, Sunday night – the ending of a long weekend.  We were staying at Caesar’s Palace and took a taxi to the Rio to see Penn & Teller – our last show before heading home early Monday morning.

After leaving the performance we were waiting outside in the Taxi line along with dozens of others.  The taxis seemed to be coming very slowly.  One stopped and said that the police had shut down Las Vegas Boulevard.   He wasn’t sure that he could get us to Caesars but would try the back way.

It was while getting into the taxi that I heard the sound.   The sound of sirens, hundreds of them.   Police vehicles of all sorts, fire department equipment, medic vans, ambulances – – all were filling the area with sirens.   It was the only sound you could hear.

The driver took the back roads and got us to our hotel.  We noticed that the lot was filled with taxis and none of them moving.  They had no place to go.  the roads were blocked.   Entering our hotel, we saw people apparently going about their own business, only slightly aware of the actions outside.

We went to our room and turned on the television.   Local Las Vegas stations were reporting on the slaughter.  Two were killed and a dozen wounded.  Then 20 were dead and a hundred wounded,   Ambulances and medic vans were full and the hospitals were over-flowing with wounded.  Some were being transported  in private cars.

Then came the news that there may have been two or more shooters and no one was certain where they were.   Swat teams were searching all of the hotels for the other suspects.

Caesar’s is several blocks from Mandalay Bay and the site of the massacre, but police agencies weren’t certain that all of the killers had been caught.

Then came the news that McCarran Airport was closed and no planes were taking off or landing.  McCarran is right across from the site of the shootings.   Many people, fleeing the carnage entered the airport and took shelter behind some of the buildings on the property.

We were scheduled to fly back home Monday at 6 a.m.   We weren’t certain that we could even make it to the airport if they re-opened.  We talked about staying at our hotel another night.   Jan called down to registration and after 10 minutes on hold determined to go back downstairs.

At the bottom level, hundreds of casino customers and hotel guest were milling around, unable to understand what was happening.  We walked into the main registration area – – and there was no one around.  No hotel or casino staff.   No clerks, no waiters, even no janitors.   They were all missing.  What had taken their place was dozens of armed police and security agents.   They had blocked all the doors to Caesar’s and weren’t letting anyone in or out.

Soon, someone who looked as it he were in charge began ordering all guests and customers to the back of the hotel, in an area where “they would be safe”.   We found out later that all staff had been trained to go to a shelter in the hotel in the event of an active shooter.  Jan and I went back to our room and watched the events unfolding live on local television.   We called and texted family members to let them know where we were and that we were safe.

We still hoped to make it to our flight on Monday.  We packed, got about two hours of sleep and woke up at 3:30 am ready to leave for the airport.   We didn’t know if it was open.   We didn’t know if we could get a taxi.   We didn’t know if all of the shooters had been found – – but we learned the death toll was significantly higher.

We carried our bags down and got in the taxi line at the hotel.   All we saw were about a half dozen police vehicles and some private cars (we assumed were Lyft or Uber.)   The taxi line was short but taxis were in short supply.   Eventually some came by and we managed to get a ride to the airport at 4:30 am.  We shared the taxi with a man from New York who told us his story.  He had been in one of the casinos playing blackjack.   He said he was about a thousand dollars ahead, when everyone started running.   He picked up his chips and joined them – – running.   He didn’t know why and he didn’t know where – – but everyone was running and he did too.

We made it to the airport, checked in and got through security all in about 20 minutes.   There weren’t many people flying out and there weren’t many people working the check in or the security line.

As I sat at the airport waiting for our plane to fly us back to SeaTac, I began to relax.  Then I felt great sorrow.   I think it was what the people in the air during 9-11 thought when they were grounded and safe on land.   The event was so massive that the problems we faced were insignificant.  I began to think about the people actually killed or wounded.  I thought about their families and I thought about the great sadness that was just beginning to sweep our country.

We heard many first hand stories from some of the people who were at the concert and now at the airport.  One young man had very little clothing and was covered up with blood.   He told his girl friend from his phone (we all over-heard) of his ordeal.   A young woman was shoeless.  She had lost them running away at the concert.   An older woman gave her the shoes she was wearing, then put on another pair from her carry-on.

Sometimes, we get so over-whelmed by our own problems associated with great disasters, that it’s only when we feel safe and secure that our minds let us focus on others.   Maybe not.   Maybe it’s just the way I cope.

Posted in The Real News

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