What I saw in Vegas during an active shooter scare will stay with me forever

“Don’t come back. I don’t want to scare you, but something bad is going to happen. I love you.”

There were so many things I didn’t say to my boyfriend in that July 16 text message: I’m crouched behind the bed so I can’t be seen from the door. The lights and TV are off, so there’s no sign of life. I’m too scared to cry, but that’s okay because I have to be silent.

I hate that I know how to do these things because I’ve heard so many kids describe their schools’ active target practice on TV that it almost feels like I went through it myself. You have to turn off the lights, lower the blinds, be absolutely silent, and barricade yourself behind tables and cupboards.

I hate that I know how to do these things because I’ve heard so many kids describe their schools’ active target practice on TV that it almost feels like I went through it myself.

Politicians spend endless hours debating whether mass shootings are due to mental health issues. But the mental health problems caused by a constant onslaught of mass shootings don’t get enough attention.

10 minutes before I sent the SMS everything was normal.

I sat in the elevator at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and calculated how much money I’d lost on the slots so far. One more try before I went to bed, I thought, to try and win my $75 back. My friend, more of a night owl than me, was across town exploring Fremont Street.

After 2 1/2 years of pandemic living, he and I had weathered a long weekend out of town. We’d been expecting it for a month and playfully roared “Vegas, baby!” at each other’s odd moments.

With a ring, the elevator doors opened into a small anteroom.

Waves upon waves of screaming people ran straight at me. I stood in the only open elevator door.

“Don’t get out!” a woman yelled, body-checking me back into the car.

A babble of voices rose around me.

“Close the doors!”

“We have to get out of here!”

I didn’t process anything of what was happening. The noise and movement of the casino floor had been controlled chaos. That was something completely different.

At least 20 people packed into a room designed for no more than 10 people and I was backed into a corner and hit the wall with a loud bang. Between the shortness of breath and the panic that surrounded me, I couldn’t catch my breath.

The air no longer smelled of money; it tasted of fear. And the screaming suddenly shifted focus. All voices were now directed at me – the person closest to the elevator buttons that would take us out of there.


“We have to go now!”


I didn’t have time to think and I didn’t ask questions.

With fingers as useless as hot dogs, I scanned the key card required to travel between floors. The telltale rustle of closing doors could not be heard.

Once again the voices changed their destination.

“There are too many people! Get out!”

“It’s too hard! The doors won’t close!”

Two young men jumped out of the elevator and were again absorbed by the screaming crowd. They had sacrificed their own safety to give us ours. The doors closed.

When the elevator car finally went up out of harm’s way, I slumped against the wall and looked at my escape companions. Every inch was filled with bodies.


I turned to the woman who pushed me back to safety. “What the hell is going on?” I ask.

“There’s a shooter,” she said, and her eyes rolled up. “We heard two shots.”

I can’t pretend I didn’t think so, but hearing it confirmed was a gut punch.

One woman wailed, “It’s nowhere safe anymore!”

When I finally made it back to my room on the 29th floor, I ran around turning off everything that made any lights or sounds. Part of my brain whispered that with over 2,000 rooms it would be extremely unlikely that a shooter would aim at our particular room.

But the active part of my brain was not working rationally. It was stuck in survival mode.

pull out the phone.

dim screen.

text friend.

Open Twitter.

Search for “Vegas Active Shooter”.

The first post was three minutes ago.

For half an hour I scrolled obsessively through Twitter, watching the #ActiveShooter posts spread from gunshots heard in New York-New York and the MGM across the street to nearby Aria and casinos spread down the strip. Tweets showed thousands – maybe tens of thousands – of people pacing in blind panic.

For the next two days, every time I took the elevator, my mind would get caught in a loop of memories of the scariest two minutes of my life.

Thirty minutes later the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department made a statement: “Reports of a shooting near the MGM tonight are unfounded. Initial reports are that a broken glass door made a loud noise that startled valet parking.”

Our lobby was no crime scene. All the adrenaline drained from my body. I collapsed on the bed like a limp noodle.

“You can come back now,” I texted my friend. “I need to cuddle.”

For the next two days, every time I took the elevator, my mind would get caught in a loop of memories of the scariest two minutes of my life.

That’s where I was when the woman pushed me.

This is what a human tsunami looks like coming straight at me.

This is how cries of terror sound for life and death.

This is what guilt feels like when you leave two people behind to save 15.

Two days later, I was still in tears for no apparent reason.

In the United States we live in a perpetual state of panic, to the extent that the sound of glass breaking in a hotel unleashes mass hysteria down the length of one of America’s most famous streets.


Children know so much about it hide from an active shooter like they do with multiplication and adverbs, and it affects their sanity.

A 2021 Georgia Institute of Technology study showed that after active shooting practice, children experienced up to a 42% increase in anxiety, stress, and depression — not from shootings themselves, but from practice for a potential shooter.

In a 2019 study, the American Psychological Association found that 79% of adults in the United States are stressed about the possibility of a mass shooting and 32% have nowhere to go without worrying about becoming a victim of a mass shooting. About one in four adults lives their life differently because they are so afraid of mass shootings.

Arthur C. Evans Jr., CEO of APA, said of the findings, “It is clear that mass shootings are affecting our sanity. … We don’t have to experience these events directly for them to affect us. Just hearing from them can have an emotional impact, and this can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health.”

When will the mental and physical health of our entire population become more important than the desire of a very small percentage to own a semi-automatic rifle that can approximately shoot even without modification 60 rounds per minute?

Chaos was unleashed in Las Vegas by a rumor – one that we took seriously because we were conditioned to it.

Two men jumped out of the elevator without hesitation. I wish I knew the calculation they made. What I do know instead is a strange sense of guilt on the part of the survivors: we had no way of knowing there wasn’t a shooter. If so, these young men might have been among the ever-growing number of people killed in mass shootings. We would have been the next big story to hit the headlines for a few weeks and then fade – just another stat in an endless string of stats.

Our terror was real, but fortunately no one was killed. The people of Highland Park, Illinois; Uvalde, Texas; Buffalo, New York; and so many more places weren’t so lucky. What I saw in Vegas during an active shooter scare will stay with me forever

Fry Electronics Team

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