Rick Ardito is
2 October at 22:47 ∑ Apple Valley, CA ∑
Cassie promised those babies that we would be home in the morning. This
was one of the first thoughts that ran through my head as automatic gunfire
rained down on the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Our kids, Reagan
(4) and Rocco (2) were definitely missing us during the first vacation
we had ever planned without them, so we had spoken with them frequently
and they were eagerly awaiting our return the next morning. I also thought
of the three other women we were with, two of them with children awaiting
their return, and one celebrating her Brotherís birthday on this hallowed
eveningÖHer brother that returned from Afghanistan only to get senselessly
murdered for no reason by someone who didnít even know him. My single
and sole purpose was to get these women to safety as quickly as I possibly
Many of you have probably seen video of the concert and heard the gunfire
and wondered what people were doing. The music still played and no one
moved at first. I donít believe the first volley of gunfire heard was
aimed at the venue. One of the things many people donít understand about
gunfire is that there are actually two loud booms associated with almost
all gunshots, except those few rounds that are designed to travel at subsonic
speeds. The first boom is that which is caused by the rapid expansion
of gas which is a direct result of the ignition of the gunpowder in a
confined space known as the chamber of the firearm. The second is caused
by the round reaching supersonic speeds, and is the same phenomena we
all know as the Ďsonic boomí.
These first rounds heard in the videos honestly sounded like firecrackers
to us. I believe it was caused by the shooter blowing out the windows
in his 32nd floor perch while not aimed directly at the crowd. Since the
rounds werenít aimed in our direction, the sound signature seemed less
intense, which is why I think many thought they were firecrackers. Whether
this was planned or not, it had the effect of causing many people to delay
reaction when the next volley of automatic gunfire rained on the crowd.
Also, there is a psychological phenomenon called Normalcy Bias, which
causes people to quickly rationalize things that are not normal, as normal.
John Leach, a prominent psychologist estimates about 75% of people find
it impossible to reason during an event such as this one. This is why
so many people freeze in place and donít react to horrific events unfolding
At the time
my group of five was sitting near the rear area of the main stage viewing.
We had decided that day that we didnít want to fight the crowd up near
the stage as we had done the two previous nights. We had a blanket laid
out and many of us had taken our shoes off. As soon as that second set
of gunfire went off, I yelled at the girls to get down and get their shoes
on. I told them that we were getting out of there and to move quickly.
As soon as everyoneís shoes were on, I told them which direction we were
going, to stay moving and to stay low. It was chaos. While we were taking
cover during that second volley of fire, someone in front of me was hit.
Their body flinched as the round struck them and I was kicked in the head
by the flinch. Remembering what I knew about normalcy bias, I was determined
to ensure that everyone I was with moved, and moved quickly. I grabbed
the girls and told them to move.
During the stampede we got separated into two groups. My wife, her friend
and I being one, and two other girls being the second group. Thank God,
those two girls kept moving. We moved away from the stage to the North
East, as the Mandalay bay was South West of the venue. I told the girls
to use cars and anything solid as cover as we moved away as quickly as
we could. I believe we were outside the concert gates within one minute
of the beginning of the shooting. As I looked back at the crowd frantically
trying to escape, I saw the one image that I wish I had captured during
this event. A small squad of Las Vegas Police Officers, 4-5 of them moved
in formation similar to the below picture, but with only sidearms. They
ran towards the automatic gunfire, not knowing any more about where the
shooter was than we did. Iím positive this group of officers, and dozens
like them saved many lives because of their quick action, and unrivaled
At this point my heart was torn. I know so many people needed help, but
that one thought was louder in my head than any of the gunfire or screams.
I have to get these girls home to their babies. I have to get my wife
home to ours. At that thought we kept moving. I told my wife and her friend
that we were moving towards the Hooters hotel, and we were going to use
vehicles and anything else solid as cover as we moved. By this time information
was swirling from people in panic. We heard talk of multiple shooters
in multiple locations. This was the point that I remembered how unreliable
early information is in these situations. We didnít know what was true
that we were hearing, and what wasnít.
As soon as I felt like we were a decent distance away from the original
fire, I told my wife to call her other friend so that we could meet back
up with them. Thankfully, near the Las Vegas strip there are many large
signs to use as landmarks. It didnít take us long to find them, and as
soon as we did we kept running East down Tropicana avenue. As we approached
McCaren airport we heard rumors that one of the shooters had stolen a
Police vehicle during the Chaos. Many people were funneling into the airport,
and we briefly entered before we decided to exit and keep moving. Again,
the information was just so sketchy at the time, the last thing we wanted
was to be trapped in an airport that was also an intended target of the
So, we kept moving East down Tropicana Avenue. By this point the girls
were having a very hard time moving fast, and their emotions were starting
to take over. They were crying, and frequently trying not to vomit as
we moved. We had decided that if we just kept moving away from the event,
we could eventually get a cab and feel safe about driving around the strip
to the West side where we were staying at a time share, the Tahiti Hotel.
As we hurried East, everyone was trying to use their phones to contact
loved ones and tell them that we were okay, but also check on other friends
that we knew were in the venue when the shooting occurred. I called both
my Mom and my Dad to let them know what was going on, and asked them to
watch the news and keep us updated on the information coming out. When
I was talking to my Dad at this point, I made the estimation that I had
heard a minimum of 300 gunshots during the event. At this point I am unsure
what the round count was and I donít know if the Police have made a statement
on that fact, but I am sure that at least 300 were fired.
As we moved East another event occurred that will forever stand out in
my mind. One car driving East down Tropicana had a young, brown skinned
girl who I could not determine nationality hanging out the passenger window
yelling at the crowd. I honestly could not make out what she was saying,
but it was clear to me that she was taunting us. Whatever was coming out
of her mouth was hateful based on how she was saying it, but I am unsure
if she was speaking English or not. The sinking in my stomach from that
image will be hard to forget.
The next location we approached was across Tropicana to the North. There
was a small parking lot with several small stores including a Subway,
a pizza place and liquor store. We decided to cross Tropicana and head
that way. As we entered the parking lot Cassie reminded me of my Uncle
Manny who works in Las Vegas and travels back and forth to California.
At the time, we really were feeling like we had no idea who we could trust.
The information making its way to us sounded like there were several shooters
in many locations, some may have stolen emergency vehicles, and this was
what seemed like a coordinated attempt to devastate the entire city of
Las Vegas. The one person in town who wasnít on the strip that I knew
I could trust was my Uncle Manny, and Iím so grateful he picked up the
phone and helped us find a good location to meet. That location was probably
another mile down Tropicana at a Vons, which he originally referred to
as Safeway. During this conversation, we moved towards the Liquor store
where the owners allowed us to have some water bottles. The girls very
much needed that water at the time, and I will be forever grateful to
this liquor store just North of McCaren airport that was so gracious through
Once we had information from my Uncle Manny we had a plan. Keep moving
East, past UNLV towards the Safeway. At that point some young men who
were in the parking lot didnít know what was going on and had briefly
made fun of the Girls for their panic in telling me that they had gotten
water and we could continue moving. When the girls let them know that
there was a terrorist attack on the strip, they offered us a ride. Still
skeptical of anyone we didnít know we told them that we had a ride coming
and that they should help someone else who didnít. We kept moving.
The girls were having a really hard time keeping a swift pace by this
point. We knew East was our destination, but we could not see the Safeway
that we were heading towards. At one point during the conversation I had
with my Uncle, he had mentioned an Arco gas station. We were approaching
one that was back on the South side of Tropicana. I called him to see
if he could meet us there, and that became the new plan, but he was at
least ten minutes out still. As we approached the intersection, there
were multiple empty cabs and limos. One surreal part of this experience
is that almost everyone on the road still didnít have any idea what was
going on. Us and another group plead with the limo driver to let us in
and get us out of there. Iím not sure what he was saying, but it became
clear that he wasnít going to pick us up. We found a Mini-Van cab that
was originally going to let us in, but then she told us that she could
only give a ride to four people, so we continued moving and crossed back
over Tropicana to the Arco. Once we got there, I got back on the phone
with my Uncle Manny.
By that time, the Westbound lanes of Tropicana had been closed, and it
became clear that the Safeway, now correctly identified as Vons was going
to have to be our rendezvous point. As we began to exit the Gas station
parking lot to the East we spoke briefly with someone who had a truck
and offered us a ride. The five of us climbed in the bed, and then learned
that their plan was to head back towards Hooters to find someoneís sister.
We had already determined that we were not going to go back towards the
strip, so exhausted, the five of us climbed back out of the truck to keep
moving East. I remember Cassie helping her friend who seemed like she
couldnít move anymore get out of the bed of the truck so we could continue
walking. As we moved further East, Cassie spotted a young woman who was
visibly shaken and holding her stomach as only pregnant women do. Although
she wasnít visibly pregnant, Cassie picked up on this and asked her if
she was pregnant and if she was okay. Cassie stopped and said a quick
prayer while laying hands on her, we told them good luck, and the man
and I briefly hugged before we were on our way.
As we continued moving we ran into a middle-aged woman who was by herself.
After speaking with her as we moved, I learned that she was working the
concert and didnít know what she was going to do. She was not permitted
to bring her cell phone into the venue and she had no way of contacting
anyone. I asked her if she knew a number to call and dialed it in my phone.
She briefly arranged a meetup with a local friend, and we kept moving.
Every emergency vehicle that passed made us nervous because we were informed
that the shooters had stolen emergency vehicles. We looked for any cover
as we moved east, but there was none to be found, so we began running
again. The girls did so well, but I could tell that we were reaching their
limit. Fortunately, after maybe another hundred yards we could see the
intersection where we needed to be. We kept moving and finally found Vons.
We did not immediately see my Uncle Manny so we had to call him, as we
had unknowingly passed him in the parking lot. He drove over to us and
we piled 5 of us into his Toyota 4-Runner. We finally felt safe, or at
least much safer than we had in the last hour or so. I felt like I had
accomplished my purpose, at least for now.
We drove South from Tropicana to try to avoid anywhere near the strip
as we tried to navigate to the West side of Tropicana where our hotel
was. I decided by this point that we were not going to stay the night
in Vegas, and the plan became to get to our rooms, pack our stuff and
drive home as soon as possible. As we navigated closer to I-15 all Northbound
ramps were closed. We saw tactical trucks full of swat or other types
of special forces officers being let onto the ramp and heading full throttle
towards the area of the shooting. We were finally able to cross over the
freeway, and head towards Tropicana. Once we arrived at our hotel, the
girls did great. Everyone grabbed water to rehydrate, and packed up stuff
as quickly as we could. We were ready to hit the road 10 minutes later.
This required more navigation South on Decatur all the way to Blue Diamond
Avenue before we could get back on the interstate. We communicated and
decided not to stop for gas until we reached state line, which is about
40 minutes South of Las Vegas. Still nervous and skeptical of everyone
I saw, I observed intently as we got gas and got ready to head out and
make the rest of our trip home.
I realize that a lot of this information may not be interesting to some,
but I felt important to me to document my feelings and experiences so
that I could reference them. This horrible event has changed our lives
forever, and Iím sure the emotional and mental aftermath will be devastating
for years to come. Remaining on high alert and on a mission to get those
girls home safely did not allow me to process the events as they were
happening the same way the girls did. Today has been extremely emotional
for me as I unpack the things I saw and felt as the event unfolded. One
of the strangest things is that conversations that I had last night, before
the shooting started feel in my mind like they happened weeks ago. The
adrenaline dumps de-prioritized normal events in my mind.
I am so grateful that we were in a position that we could get out of there.
We could have just as easily been near the stage as we were the previous
two nights, and if we were, I have no doubt this event would have had
much direr physical consequences for at least some in our group. Also,
we were fortunate to not have anyone separated from us when the shooting
started. We could have easily been searching for someone who was in the
bathroom or getting food when it all unfolded. For us, many things were
aligned that allowed us to escape without any lasting physical harm. For
many others, including people we know that wasnít the case. I will forever
remember and be grateful for the people who responded, like that small
LVPD tactical squad, placing the lives and safety of those they did not
know above their personal needs. That kind of heroism deserves nothing
but respect. God bless them and everyone else affected in any way by this
horrific tragedy. I pray that healing and peace can find these people
and our Nation.
Thank you to everyone who commented and shared my story over the last
day. I'm not sure why, but Facebook is having a hard time letting me add
information. So I wanted to add some additional details for those who
might be interested.
In the aftermath of the shooting due to things reported by the media I
had convinced myself that the initial pops were actually gunfire. After
reviewing these memories, really thinking about what I saw and heard,
and talking to my group, I am convinced that my initial gut instinct was
true. The first pops were a string of fire crackers. One of the distinct
differences about these pops versus the gunfire that followed is that
the sound came from directly on the ground at the venue, and not far from
us. Maybe 40 feet. There are additional details I have remembered that
I may add in the future. I know this doesn't agree with the media reporting,
but I am 100% convinced the shooter was aided and signaled from inside
the venue with these firecrackers.
The next important detail is that once we had passed Hooters hotel things
we're starting to seem a little more calm, if only for a brief moment.
This is when we were trying to meet back up with the other two members
of our group. We had considered sheltering in Hooters, then all of the
sudden there was a massive panic and stampede of people trying to get
away from Hooters. We started running again as fast as we could, unsure
exactly what the panic was about.