SWAAY Exclusive: Two Women Share How They Survived the Country’s Largest Massacre

SWAAY Exclusive: Two Women Share

How They Survived the Country’s Largest Massacre

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

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“I just cannot get the image of the terror on the woman’s face out of my mind,” Lyft moonlighter and local agency Project Manager, Wendy Burney said in relation to one of the victim reactions during the country’s largest shooting to date. I have never seen such a look of terror.”

A Las Vegas resident since 2003, Wendy Burney echoed the sentiment of so many following this week’s unimaginable massacre at Mandalay Bay and the Harvest 91 Festival.

Having just dropped passengers off near the 22,000-person event, the mother of three shared that she was initially more confused than scared when the first shots rang out.

“It took me a while to realize it was gun fire, just like everyone else.”

T-shirts turned tourniquets for bullet holes in the McDonald’s parking lot across from Mandalay Bay as Wendy Burney was detained with other attendees by SWAT until approximately 3 AM.

“The police, SWAT, military and early responders were absolutely incredible,” she adds. “In a time of so much unrest, not one single public officer was anything but compassionate, calm, skilled and respectful.  There were no condescending or apathetic tones.  We were all just humans.”

Photo Courtesy of Katie Berney

Meanwhile, fellow Lyft Driver, Katie Berney, (no relation) was experiencing a very different set of events unfold around her.  Also dropping passengers at Mandalay Bay, she tried her best to flee the scene as she too realized that the “fireworks” were actually gunfire, and she was right in the middle of it all.

“I was already nervous, shaking and in shock and I wanted to leave.  A police officer stopped me and said: ‘back up, back up!'” says Burney who made a U-turn to accommodate the officer and four bloody women jumped into her van. Despite there only being one wound on the ladies they were soaked with the blood of other attendees. “I felt bad for the wounded, and the family for the wounded, but the women with me were afraid and begged me not to stop any more (for anyone else), and so I did not and we just focused on escaping.” Says Berne, “Honestly its a bad nightmare for me, when I close my eyes and I see a (certain) guy asking me for a ride.  It is like a movie and it’s really happening and I am so sorry (for not stopping).”

Katie, also a mother, says she needs a sleeping aide to even attempt sleep at this point and is anxious to talk to anyone associated with the event in hopes of finding peace or serenity, and a way to move forward with her life.  The sounds of screams, the shots (including a nine-minute straight round) and the chaos seem to be some of the hardest portions of the massacre to forget.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Jones

“I can still hear it all in my ears, and in my mind,” Burney concludes.  “There are so many who have lived much more tragic versions of this event and night, you almost feel guilty even feeling the trauma if you were not one of the fathers laying on top of his children to shield them, or a surgeon up for over 24 straight hours dealing with the 515 hospitalized and wounded.  And yet, this happened to all of us, everyone has been affected in some way by this really delusional man, and it is haunting.  How do we all move on?”

In a city known for celebrity chefs, smokey casinos and bright lights, it is easy to forget that Las Vegas is a community filled with 2.1 million residents. 2.1 million teachers, kids, employees, companies, churches and more.

So many things went right on a night filled with so much wrong.  The emotional intelligence of officers and police on the scene was just incredible. Their calm demeanors and quick reactions fostered a sense of organized response amongst the chaos of blood, death and confusion.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Jones

It wasn’t just police officers there to mitigate stress. The Shell station on Las Vegas Blvd. and Mandalay Bay Drive handed out free waters to all who entered, strangers helping strangers in the most intimate of ways.  Random drivers took the wounded, children and visitors to local hospitals.

Uber offered free rides, and Lyft offered bonuses to all of the Las Vegas drivers who worked this week despite the fact that tourism came to a screeching halt. The Clark County School District Superintendent excused absences from schools, calling parents to offer support while Evel Pie supplied free pizzas to officers and first responders working round the clock to make our city safe again. Blood bank donation lines started at 3 AM on the morning of the shooting, with Las Vegas residents ready to offer whatever they could to help those in need. And for those affected psychologically, MGM Resorts is offering free therapy to those who attended and were affected by the shooting.

The stage and stage lights at the Harvest 91 Festival remain untouched and fully assembled. A silent reminder that we will remain #VegasStrong.

While we may not understand the motivations of the shooter Stephen Paddock and why he reaped so much havoc on Americas glittering city. It is important we have more than just prayers during this time and that we work to initiate change to stop tragedies like this from happening.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Jones
Melissa Broadway

Melissa Broadway is a mother and an agency founder, and a proud resident of Las Vegas, NV. More information about her can be found at MelissaBroadway.co.

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