Saturday, April 20, 2024

‘Why Not Me?’

November 4, 2018 by  
Filed under Feature

Li’Shey Johnson

Li’Shey Johnson shares a deeply personal account of how it felt to be at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Oct. 1, 2017.

Li’Shey Johnson and her Heart & Soul Hospitality Foundation are well-known within the Las Vegas community. But it was in her role as a independent event coordinator that she was at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Oct. 1, 2017 — a tragic night that transformed our city forever.

One year later, she shared her thoughts on the events of a fateful evening that saw 59 innocent concertgoers lose their lives to a crazed shooter — and spoke candidly about the long, slow, difficult, frustrating road to recovery.

If I really try smelling my fingertips, I can still smell the scent of barbeque Fritos. I was working the VIP area at the Route 91 Harvest Festival and talking with some of my clients. We were having a great time and I heard something like fireworks. I thought to myself that the show must be include a fireworks show at the end — but it’s rude that the production team is testing them now, interrupting the musical artist’s performance. It didn’t seem right. But we really didn’t think much of the initial popping sound.

Then all of the sudden we heard a very loud, DAT, DAT, DAT, sound. And a voice screamed, “Get down — there is a shooter! Get on the ground!” I froze and watched a person an arm’s length away from me get shot and fall to the ground. I didn’t know whether to go to the left or to the right. I was barricaded in, and remember someone pulling me saying, “Get under the bleachers!”

I first tried to pull at the barricade — to break them apart, so other people running for safety could get under the bleachers. My first thought was not to save myself, but the many people who were screaming and running trying to not get shot. I was trying to save them as I witnessed many fall to their death. I wanted to climb to the top of the bleachers and scream, “Don’t Run! Don’t Run!”

Some people listened and some didn’t listen. Many of the people around me joined me as we climbed underneath the bleachers. I remember telling people who were laying on the ground around me to stay off their cell phones, because in my mind the shooter was above our heads —and he knew we were all under the bleachers, ready to kill us all.

I kept hearing someone saying, “The shooter is on the ground.” But, I could swear that the shooter was on top of us on the bleachers. I kept whispering over and over again to everyone around me, “Be quiet, shut up, be quiet, shut up — shhhhhhhh! The shooter is on top of our heads. Be quiet.”

I knew we were the next to die — and the lady lying next to me had her cell phone with only three bars of charge left. During all the chaos, I lost my cell phone and my glasses. I asked her if I could use her phone to call my mom because I wanted to tell my mom I loved her and to tell my children I love them. I wanted them to know I was okay and finding peace within myself for my passing. Also, if they wanted to find my body, it would be found underneath the bleachers.

I remember more gunshots and then it went silent. Soon, a voice screamed to us, “Is anyone hurt?” and then said, “Take your clothes off and make a tourniquet to stop any bleeding. We will be back to get you.” I remember the voice calling out again. “Crawl from underneath the stage and bleachers!” But I didn’t move — because I didn’t know if it was the shooter or shooters calling out to us. I just laid there and played dead, because I was so scared.

Then I remember more rounds of gunshots. It was chaotic. People had no idea that the shooter was shooting from a hotel room across the street at Mandalay Bay. We thought the shooter was on the ground and I thought he was on top of the bleachers over my head.

Now, to me 12 months later, I believed the shooter was over my head. I don’t care what the reports say — that is what it sounded like to me. My trauma continues, and I have seen therapist after therapist and have taken up to 18 different medications a day.

People say, “You are strong. You will get over it. God is good and praise the Lord. Aren’t you glad to be alive?” If I hear another person say this to me, I think I might slap them. I will never be the same again.

I am trying to get my life and my power back. It has taken me 11 months to get off the 18 different kinds of medication, and I have had surgery on my shoulder and my broken ankle.

I have been medicated since October 2, 2017. I go to therapy every day. I went back to work a week after the incident — to work a gun show at the hotel property I was employed at. Though this all, and as I struggle to gain my life and health back, I just want to remind people who are victims of trauma that there is professional help to assist you in living a happy and safe life.

Trauma yoga has helped me — and it really helps people dealing with trauma in their life, if others take the time to hear your story.

We have all heard the statement while growing up, “Whatever happens in this house, stays in this house.” But that hurts you inside when dealing with trauma — and it comes out later in your life. The big message is this: it’s OK to seek professional help.

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