PURCELLVILLE, Va. — Courtney Robey, a native of Shinnston, West Virginia, has attended many concerts in her lifetime, and she expected Sunday night’s Jason Aldean concert at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas Village to be just like any other.
“It was really crazy because we were there for a concert,” Robey said. “What do you do at a concert? You’re taking video with your phone. You’re taking pictures with your phone. You’re taking pictures with your friends.
“The worst thing that you thought was going to happen to you was people getting drunk and starting a fight, and that could be anywhere, but I don’t know how you go on from this,” she said.
Robey attended the festival as part of her job with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association in Reston, Virginia.
“We educate and promote the RV lifestyle, so we had an RV on-site at the festival,” she said. “We had closed down the RV, and we had gone over to listen to the music and just kind of enjoy the evening.”
The company typically attends five to 10 music festivals each year, with most being country music, so Robey was expecting the rest of the night to be enjoyable.
“This one definitely had a different vibe being in Vegas. You don’t really think of Vegas being a country music capital, but it was sold out for the first time this year,” she said. “It was just a lot of fun. You’re right there on the Vegas Strip, and the stage faced right down the Vegas strip, so it had a really good vibe and a really good feel about it.”
However, that vibe quickly changed from one of enjoyment to one of panic.
“We had some random stranger take a picture, just like you do at music festivals. We took a picture at 10:01,” Robey said. “At 10:08 all of this started. It’s amazing and it’s unbelievable that all of that happened so quickly.”
A friend that Robey made at the concert went to get drinks while they were taking the group photo. He was shot and is now in critical condition.
“We’re just keeping him in our prayers, keep getting updates on him and praying that he’s okay,” she said.
Like many others who were at the scene, Robey said the first two shots sounded like fireworks.
“We all looked up, expecting to see fireworks that maybe somebody messed up and they were setting off early, but when we looked up there was nothing there,” she said. “We all looked at each other, and for that brief moment we thought, ‘Where are the fireworks?’ and that’s when the automatic fire started.”
At that point, Robey’s only concern was to find a safe place for she and her coworker to hide. That spot ended up being under a set of nearby bleachers that had mesh around the bottom.
“The festival was in a parking lot that they had transformed into festival grounds right there on the strip, so it was really just a great big, open field,” she said. “There were several other people under there. We all got in a circle underneath of there, held hands and prayed for a little while.”
The group stayed huddled under the bleachers for about 20 minutes before security came and ushered everyone out of the festival grounds, whether to triage or to safety.
Robey and her coworker went running out of the festival, staying close to the vendor booths and soon realized how devastating the event was.
“That’s when I realized that people inside had been hurt,” she said. “Until that point, I really thought that it was all outside in the streets because I hadn’t seen anyone with guns come in other than just cops and security running toward the gunfire.
“The guy walking in front of me had been shot in the arm about four times, and they took him to triage,” she added. “When we got outside of the gate, there was a lot of blood on the sidewalk there.”
While the shots had stopped, the chaos continued.
“There were sirens for hours. There was a helicopter that just kept circling and circling. The sirens would die down for a few minutes, and then they would just start all over again,” Robey said.
Robey’s phone began to flood with a stream of calls and texts from friends and coworkers who saw the news of the shooting.
“One of my friends got a news alert, and the first thing he did was start messaging me on Facebook,” she said. “He kept sending me alerts until we got back to the hotel. He was trying to tell me what was going on.”
Though her husband and children were already in bed at home, Robey’s parents were staying in the Mandalay Bay hotel where the gunshots were fired.
“I was just trying to get a phone call into them to let them know that I was okay, but they didn’t even know,” she said. “Where they were on the 60th floor, they couldn’t even hear anything going on. They had know idea that it was happening.”
Robey’s coworker was staying at Tropicana, so the two held hands and fled to her hotel room. Going into the back entrance of the hotel, there were numerous ambulances and individuals trying to save those who had been injured.
“There was a woman who was at the concert, she was a nurse, she was doing triage, helping as many people as she could,” she said.
Once safe in the room, they turned on the television and saw how devastating the shooting was.
“When they came on the news and said that 20 people had died, we just looked at each other dumbfounded,” Robey said. “We really just thought it was out in the streets. Now with 59, just the scope of it is crazy to think about.”
Though Robey is now home, she’s not sure that the shock and adrenaline has yet subsided.
“It was that survival mode that you have to go in. I was pretty far from my home, and then I couldn’t get back to my hotel, which was my home base, until 8 o’clock (Monday) morning,” she said. “There’s still so much that had to be done before you could take a deep breath and realize that you were okay. I think once I finally got home, I finally felt safe at that point.”
Even through that adrenaline and chaos, Robey said there were many “heroes” around the city, whether helping with triage after the shooting or protecting those around them as gunshots were fired.
“There were a lot of people who were right there in the middle of everything happening who sacrificed so much to help others,” Robey said. “Through all of that ugliness, people love each other and there’s a lot of good in this world.
“That’s proven by what those people did. I think that I’m here by the grace of God, and that’s it,” she said. “That’s the only reason that I’m here today.”