PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Three friends from the Longview area are among those who survived the mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 59 dead and more than 500 injured.
The women are back home and safe, but shared their horrific and surreal experience with KOIN 6 News.
Ashley Claussen, Lindy Kennedy and Antoinette Marbut had a special spot at the Route 91 Harvest Festival Sunday night — their seats were up on an elevated platform area, right near the stage.
Claussen said she texted her husband around 8:30 p.m. saying “I’m having the time of my life,” but less than two hours later, she texted him to let him know that shots had been fired and that she loved him and her sons.
It was a goodbye text because Claussen didn’t know if they were going to make it off the platform.
Initially, the women thought the sound was due to fireworks, but they quickly realized it was gunfire.
“The next round started and that’s when I noticed Jason Aldean had run from the stage and people were dropping, so we just hit the floor,” Claussen said.
Kennedy told KOIN 6 News that her first thought after hitting the ground was thinking about how she was going to die.
“I was worried I would never see my husband again, that I was going to die on that stage,” Kennedy said. “I was very worried for my friends and I didn’t want them to die there either. I wanted us to get out, but I didn’t know how to get out or what to do.”
The three women were hiding underneath bar stools when a woman started clinging to Claussen’s leg.
“Her fingernails were just in my leg and she said ‘You can’t go anywhere, you have to stay, we’re going to die’ and I said, ‘I’m not dying up here,'” Claussen said.
That’s when Claussen took charge and decided they needed to make a run for it.
Holding hands, they went through a fenced area that people had knocked down into a parking lot. They hid behind cars, then behind a dumpster.
However, Kennedy — who struggles daily with anxiety and panic — became frantic and was so scared, she began to vomit. An off-duty officer said they needed to calm her down, but they couldn’t.
Kennedy told her friends to leave her — saying she didn’t want everyone else killed.
“And then I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m the loud target. I’m going to be the cause of my friends and these strangers being killed, I can’t live with that,'” Kennedy said.
But Marbut and Claussen refused to leave their friend.
“I told her ‘We came together, we are leaving together and we are going to be safe together,'” Claussen said.
A SWAT team reached them at the dumpster and told them to keep running.
As they were running, a stranger from a nearby condo told them to get inside. They hid there with others for several hours — sitting in the dark until they were told it was safe to go outside.
“Even though there are some terrible, horrible, evil people in this world, on Sunday night, for that one terrible evil horrible person, there were 22,000 other people who were there to help, and were ready and willing and did everything they could to keep those around them safe,” Claussen said.
The women arrived back home Monday and while they’re still in shock, they said they’re so grateful to be home.