Mandalay Bay Shooting

The largest massacre in modern US history occurred on Oct. 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. Photo courtesy of @IFGateway/Twitter

Tayler Reviere Verninas | Editor In Chief | The USD Vista

What many believed to be the sound of fireworks were actually rounds of gunshots from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel on the night of Sunday, Oct. 1. Concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival were enjoying a night of country music on Las Vegas Boulevard when shots were fired during Jason Aldean’s performance. According to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, about 516 concertgoers were injured with 59 dead so far.

Some of those among the crowd who escaped the gunfire were fellow Toreros. Senior Brant Berglund was in the crowd when he heard the rounds of gunshots.

“I was there with my brother, and we were supposed to meet a couple of friends,” Berglund said. “We were up toward the front rows of the concert. I heard a few bangs go off and assumed it was fireworks because we were in Las Vegas. My brother looked at me and said ‘I think those are gunshots we need to get out of here.’ We started running toward the bleachers and tried to tell people to clear out and didn’t realize what was going on.”

Berglund explained that a few seconds later the shots started going off like rapidfire, everyone hit the ground, and Jason Aldean stopped performing.

“That’s when it got really real,” Berglund said. “The scariest part was no one had any idea where the shots were coming from at that time. I thought it was someone in the concert so it was scary because we did not know where to go or which direction was safe.”

Berglund described how he and his brother ripped off a plastic part of the bleachers and crawled underneath the bleachers for protection.

“We tried to grab people, but there was such chaos and panic it was hard to get anyone to cooperate,” Berglund said. “We thought the bleachers were the best play to get away from the masses. It was crazy because we could see people getting shot and there was blood everywhere. People were dying and getting shot; it was a complete war zone and one of the worst things I have ever seen. I hopped the three fences to get onto Las Vegas Boulevard. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best move because the shooter was in the hotel across the street. But our only mindset was to just get out.”

Berglund stated that he ran down the Las Vegas Strip through casinos to warn people since he was one of the first in the crowd to get out of the concert.

“We ran into Tropicana and no one had any idea what was going on so we just tried to warn people to take cover,” Berglund said. “We made it to the MGM where we hid in a storage room of the David Copperfield show. We ran to the back room and hid until it was safe.”

Berglund shared his thought process in the moments of escaping.

“At the time it was adrenaline and instinct,” Berglund said. “It’s weird to think about because there wasn’t too much thought — it was just survival instinct, flight or fight. There were 20-foot fences we were trying to get over, but we had so much adrenaline we were willing to do anything. Looking back on it, I am just sad. But at the time I didn’t really have much time to think, and a good portion of the time I didn’t think we were going to make it out of there.”

Police officers were in full force during the Las Vegas Shooting to protect pedestrians and locate the shooter. Photo courtesy of @CNN/Twitter

Unfortunately, among those killed was a member of the USD community, alum Jennifer T. Irvine, age 42. She received her B.A. cum Laude in History with an emphasis in Women’s History. Irvine founded her own boutique law firm in San Diego, and attempts to contact members of her law firm were left unanswered. Her death was one of many during this past weekend’s senseless violence.

Berglund expressed that it is definitely scary to think something like this can happen in any setting.

“Honestly, the way I look at it is you can’t look at your life scared,” Berglund said. “You can be scared every minute … but I feel that if you constantly live scared you are allowing these types of people to win and allowing yourself to be terrorized. The best way to combat that is to just have a sense of compassion, unity, and love as opposed to anger, resentment, and fear.”

Senior Blakeney Fairey also attended the festival, but decided to leave early with her friends about 30 minutes before the incident took place.

“We knew Jason Aldean was going to have a concert in San Diego this upcoming weekend that we were planning on going to, so we thought it was okay if we missed it,” Fairey said. “We had to drive all the way back to SD, so the earlier we could leave, the earlier we would be home.”

It was not until the drive home that Fairey received news about the scene she had just left.

“I was with my friends in the car and one of them got a text from someone else that said ‘hey there is a shooting going on in Vegas are you okay?’” Fairey said. “We started looking things up on our phones. We still had people at the festival we were friends with and called them to see how they were.”

Fairey stated that her parents were freaked out by the news and discouraged her from attending Stagecoach.

“I think that when things like this happen, we can’t let it scare us or stop us from doing the things that we need to do,” Fairey said. “It’s hard to say because I don’t want to get shot at a concert but letting them win is harder to deal with. Them as in the people who want to cause terror and distress and panic.”

Fairey described how one of the final performances she saw on Sunday night brought high emotions within the crowd.

“Big & Rich did this entire tribute to first responders and veterans, and brought some of them to the stage,” Fairey said. “They gave them a shot of Crown Royal and sang a song. The entire crowd sang “God Bless America” to all the first responders who were able to come out [that night] and have a great time together. We weren’t expecting that from them. The tribute was so beautiful, and we were on this high.”

Fairey expressed that about 30 minutes after the performance, these first responders had to perform the exact duties they were being recognized and praised for that same night.

“After hearing all of that and then knowing what happened, it was very emotional, touching, and heartbreaking,” Fairey said. “They are the people who keep us safe but we can’t always be safe. It was too close to home when they were talking about everything like that. It was not good at all; it was pretty scary.”

The events that occurred on the night of Oct. 1, 2017 marked the biggest massacre in modern US history. Berglund stated that he hopes there will be a silver lining from all of this.

“I think I won’t ever be the same,” Berglund said. “You realize how precious and delicate life is and you learn to appreciate every day. That’s what I took out of it, and I hope others can too.”

For students and faculty impacted by this tragedy, several centers are available for contact including the Student Counseling Center at (619) 260-4655, University Ministry at (619) 260-4735, and the Employee Assistance Program at (800) 342-8111.