As eye-witness survivors shared their accounts after the horrific mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert that left 59 dead and more than 500 injured, one thing quickly became clear: As in other recent tragedies and natural disasters, ordinary people at the scene had to quickly put aside their shock and grief to help those most badly injured as they waited for professional help.
News of the shooting first became known to police a little after 10pm local time on Sunday (Oct. 1). As police were verifying whether there was one shooter or more than one, as well as the status of that shooter, parts of the Las Vegas strip closest to the gunfire were under lockdown. The assailant, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, who was firing from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, killed himself before police could apprehend him. By Monday morning, it had become clear this was America’s deadliest mass shooting in history.
Concert-goers who stayed at the scene described using whatever came to hand to take the wounded to medical care.
One person who was in the concert’s VIP section, Mark Lacy, told NPR’s Rob Siegel that for about the first two hours medical personnel and ambulances had to set up some distance away because the area had not been declared safe for them to enter. Lacey asked his wife and friends to get to a safer place, and then started to help others, including the man to the right of him who had been shot in the head. Concert-goers also performed CPR, he said, and took the wounded to the hospital in their own cars.
“Everybody that was evacuated, the wounded, the deceased, etc., were all done by concert-goers… A lot of individuals died because there was no area, once we got them to the staging area, there was no ambulances there, so we were putting them in pick-up trucks, cars, they were being taken to the hospital in private vehicles,” said Lacy. “We used tables, we used beverage carts, we used fencing, whatever we could use as a stretcher to carry these people out, we did it.”
Lacy, who had the benefit of prior military experience to count on, having been stationed in the Middle East and Central America, added: “I never experienced anything of this magnitude… I guess this is what looks like war but on a civilian scale.”