LAS VEGAS — As she enjoyed her third and final day at a country music festival on Sunday night, former Rotterdam resident Lynda Teator and her friends looked up from the stage to the sky at what they thought were fireworks going off.
Seeing nothing in the sky, Teator turned her attention back to Jason Aldean, who was the last artist slated to perform at the Route 91 Harvest festival.
Then, Teator and her friends began to see bloody people, and and they realized that the loud noises weren’t fireworks at all. They were gunshots that were raining down from a high floor of a Las Vegas hotel.
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When the stage went dark and Aldean threw his guitar and ran is when, Teator said, she realized something had happened.
“Then, we knew this was serious,” she said, reached by phone Monday evening.
Teator was one of 22,000 people in the audience at the festival Sunday when a gunman, later identified as Stephen Paddock, opened fire from a hotel room in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Paddock killed at least 59 people and injured hundreds with weapons he had stockpiled in his room.
Teator described the scene at the concert as pure chaos. So many people were running in all directions that she couldn’t tell what was going on, she said. Jam-packed into the venue, Teator could smell the gunpowder from the shots. People were screaming at her and her friends to lie flat and a stranger eventually threw his body over hers, getting shot in the process.
The stranger, Teator said, told her to run away, and not stop for anything.
“Just run, run, run,” the stranger said to her.
Teator and her companions were eventually able to navigate their way out of a back gate and escape to the MGM Grand Hotel, where her friends were staying. They then huddled in the bathroom for hours, too afraid to come out, or get in touch with anyone to say that they were safe.
“We were just so scared, we went and sat in the bathroom,” Teator said. “They say it was only 20 minutes, but it felt like forever.”
Teator, who has lived in Las Vegas for more than 12 years, said the scene on Monday on Las Vegas Boulevard was eerily quiet.
“There was nothing going on,” she said, describing the area where the attack happened. “There has never been a time where you go out and nothing is going on.”
Teator has since reached out to her husband, family and friends, who she said were calling and texting her frantically on Sunday night. She woke up to 67 missed texts. She couldn’t do it sooner, she said, because she was so shaken by the attack. As of Monday evening, she hadn’t slept and was still unable to eat.
“I’m very happy to be alive. I don’t know how we got out of there without being injured,” she said.
As a nurse, Teator said that it was extremely difficult to run away as people around her fell, either dead or injured.
“There are innocent people who got hurt and died, cops died, people gave their lives to try and help others,” she said.
But Teator said that eventually she’ll be able to come to terms with what she experienced. She lived in Rotterdam when Sept. 11 occurred, and swore she would never fly in an airplane again, but has since moved past that.
For now though, after surviving the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, all she can think about is the people who didn’t escape. She said that she can’t begin to fathom who would be able to cause so much destruction.
“All I hear are those gunshots and people screaming," she said.