Country music fan and San Diego native Michelle Bayne, 33, had been going to the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas since it started in 2014.
On Sunday (Oct. 1), she, her boyfriend and their friends had made their way to the front of the main stage to wrap another year at Route 91 with live music by Jason Aldean, the final performer of the sold-out event. But there wasn’t enough room to dance where they were so they moved back to where there was more space to enjoy the show.
When Aldean started singing “When She Says Baby,” that’s when everything changed. What was supposed to be a fun night of music turned into a real-life nightmare.
Bayne and her friends weren’t exactly sure what was happening. They thought they were hearing firecrackers igniting. But what they thought was a fireworks show, was actually bullets raining down on the crowd of 22,000 people. The source of those bullets was a gunman stationed on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay across Las Vegas Boulevard.
“Jason kept playing through the first round,” Bayne tells CMT’s Hot 20 Countdown via Skype. “And then there was a second round that just sounded like firecrackers going. And we weren’t really sure, but you could see the look on his face that something was wrong.
“And the lights went completely out and he started walking off the stage and we noticed that people were moving back towards us, and running back towards us. And I think for me, I was still in shock, not really understanding what was going on, until the woman in front of us fell on the ground.”
Bayne’s boyfriend knelt down to try and assist the woman. But a friend who was with her yelled at them to leave because there was nothing they could do.
At that point, Bayne didn’t even realize that she had been shot, too. A bullet had grazed her head through the straw cowboy hat she wore.
Bayne and her boyfriend found shelter behind a vendor cart with other victims for a few minutes, but the time felt like hours to Bayne. They didn’t know where their friends were.
“Another round of shots started going and it got louder,” she said, “and we just knew at that point that we weren’t at a safe point.”
They ran and took cover again, this time behind a merch stand and a fence. “I kept complaining that my head hurt, and I didn’t know why my head hurt so bad,” she said. “And I took my hat off, and I put my hand on my head and my hand was covered with blood.
“I was very lucky it was just a superficial wound,” she said. “And we just laid there with all these people, and everybody was just frantic. People were trying to climb over fences and just screaming. At one point, I don’t really remember what happened, but somebody came over and just yelled at us to run. So we all just ran as quickly as possible down a narrow alleyway that led out to a parking lot.”
She and her boyfriend knocked on car doors trying to find anyone who would get them to the nearest hospital or take them away from the area. But so many people were looking for lost loved ones. They ended up taking a taxi to the emergency room from a nearby hotel.
“We knew there were a lot of other people that needed help quicker than I did, but I started to feel really dizzy. Thankfully we got there and we were the first ones there. They put five staples in my head and sent us home, but so many people … just so many people. There was blood everywhere.”
Bayne went on to say that the openness of the festival was the hardest thing for her to fathom. Fifty-nine people, including the shooter Stephen Paddock, 64, died and 527 were injured as a result of the massacre. The event is being described as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
“You read all of this stuff and you just think that there’s no way that this would ever happen to you,” she said. “It’s just a huge wide, open parking lot. And we were all just sitting ducks for this person to kill so many. But there were so many brave people that ran in there to help and so many people that sacrificed so much for us. And we’re just really thankful.
When asked what Bayne wanted to say to the first responders who were at the festival, all she wanted to say was thank you.
“One big thing that I want to share with everybody is that, I know that we’re in a lot of rough political times, but everybody was just helping everybody,” Bayne said. “And it didn’t matter what color your skin was or what political belief you had. But there were people giving compressions during active fire … and there were people in the streets that were offering up their trucks for people to jump in the back to get to the hospital.”
Bayne added it’s going to take time to gain the courage to go to another live event like Route 91 again.
“We go to these all the time,” Bayne said. “I think it’s going to be hard. I think it’s going to take time. And it’s really sad because it always is something we look forward to. We bought tickets to another concert later on in the next year. And we’re kind of questioning, are we ready to do that again? I think a lot of people can relate to that going to these festivals. It’s just scary to have it happen at home.”
Bayne’s full interview with Katie Cook will be on a special CMT Hot 20 Countdown, airing Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 7-8) at 9 a.m. ET.
CMT’s philanthropic initiative CMT One Country is supporting the Red Cross in the wake of this mass shooting. Our hearts are with everyone affected by the tragedy. If you are trying to locate loved ones, please call the Red Cross hotline: 1-866-535-5654.
If you are in Nevada and would like to donate blood, please go to www.bloodhero.com to find out where to give.