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Recounting a night of violence

Survivors of the Las Vegas describe how they made it out alive.

Families+of+the+victims+and+those+affected+by+the+massacre+at+the+Route+91+Harvest+Music+Festival+on+Sunday+Oct.+1%2C+2017+held+candle+vigils+throughout+the+week+on+Las+Vegas+Blvd.+in+memoriam+of+those+lost+from+the+shooting.
Families of the victims and those affected by the massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on Sunday Oct. 1, 2017 held candle vigils throughout the week on Las Vegas Blvd. in memoriam of those lost from the shooting.

Families of the victims and those affected by the massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on Sunday Oct. 1, 2017 held candle vigils throughout the week on Las Vegas Blvd. in memoriam of those lost from the shooting.

Tribune News Service

Tribune News Service

Families of the victims and those affected by the massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on Sunday Oct. 1, 2017 held candle vigils throughout the week on Las Vegas Blvd. in memoriam of those lost from the shooting.

Ricky Rodas, Investigative Reporter

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For fans attending The Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, the last thing they expected was for their experience to end in bloodshed. However, on the final evening of the festival, a shooter fired at a crowd of attendees, killing 58 and injuring over 500 others.

Throughout the constant gunfire, concertgoers struggled to find cover, as the gunman, later identified as 64 year-old Stephen Paddock, sprayed the crowd with bullets from a window in the Mandalay Bay Hotel. The attack lasted for 10 minutes, before the shooter encountered hotel security.

As families are grieving the loss of loved ones who perished in the attack, survivors are being encouraged to tell their stories. Cal State LA alumnus Joe Brizzolara, explained the situation as his grandparents, Vickie and Jack Russo, attended the 3-day event and escaped without injuries.

In a joint interview with the University Times, the couple recounted the days leading to the shooting.

“We arrived on Thursday; we were laying by the pool during the day, everyday,” they said. “Then, in the evening we would go to the concert.”

On the last night, the Russos recalled having a great time as country music duo Big & Rich led the crowd in a rendition of “God Bless America”. It was during singer Jason Aldean’s performance that Paddock began firing into the crowd.

“When the first couple of shots rang, we all just kind of looked and said, ‘what was that sound?,” Vickie said. “Then it happened again and everybody was screaming ‘get down, get down’, because then we knew it was gunfire.”

Concertgoers quickly ducked down for cover, and Vicki’s husband threw her to the ground and laid on top of her body for protection.

“We were lying on the ground and we could hear all the firing going on. ‘We don’t want to die here, we love each other,” said Jack.

Between pauses in gunfire, Russo and others continued to scramble for safety. Deciding not to run towards the festival entrance, like many others, Jack spotted a toppled down fence in the concert vicinity, allowing the two to escape.

Originally they took shelter in the Tropicana hotel, but uncertainty of the shooter’s whereabouts prompted them to leave.

“We were inside the casino and everyone was screaming and yelling; but then it started to calm,” said Vickie. “All of a sudden, someone starts screaming, ‘they’re in here, they’re shooting, it’s coming this way!’ Then, mass panic broke out again.”

The Russos eventually ended up in the MGM Grand hotel, but had to leave again.

“We tried to get some taxi cabs and empty buses to give us a ride, but when we were running from the Tropicana to the MGM, no one would stop,” said Jack.

The Russos were fortunately able to get a ride outside of the MGM.

“We begged for our lives and said, ‘please give us a ride; there’s shooting all over the place,” said Jack. “The guy said, ‘come on in, I’ll give you guys a ride out of here.”

They asked the driver to get them out of the area and they were taken to Henderson, the next town over.

“When we got to the hotel in Henderson, we gave him a big hug and a thank you,” said the Russos. “He wouldn’t take any money; he was the nicest guy.”

When they were finally safe in their room, they took in what happened and cried.

The Russos had friends and family who also attended the concert, and they suffered gunshot injuries. Fortunately, they made it out of alive.

As a result of  the chaos and terror, the Russos have come away with a valuable lesson of gratitude.

“All this other stuff isn’t important, little arguments aren’t important. My husband and I were together during the shooting, and we want to be together for life. I never want to be parted from him.”

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Recounting a night of violence