For 26-year-old Ashley Enslin, her trip to Las Vegas, Nevada was supposed to be a fun weekend full of food, friends, drinks and music with her cousin.
“It was so much fun; I had never been to anything like that before,” said Enslin. “I had been to a few country concerts, but nothing festival-like.”
The Downey resident and Warren graduate was one of 22,000 country music fans in attendance at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival.
According to Enslin, the festival began with absolutely no hint or prelude to the tragedy that was to come.
“The first day was good. Brothers Osbourne and Lee Brice did an amazing job,” said Enslin. “Saturday was even better, because Sam Hunt was just amazing.”
Then came Sunday.
“Sunday was the day that my whole family knew that I was looking forward to the most,” said Enslin. “Jason Aldean is my favorite country singer…I made sure that we were there early. I made sure that we had a spot in the front. I wasn’t drinking because I didn’t want to have to go to the bathroom; I was committed to watching Jason Aldean.”
However, it was during Aldean’s performance – the performance that was long planned to be the culmination of Enslin’s weekend – that tragedy struck.
Police say that suspected shooter Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old resident of Mesquite, Nevada, shot into the crowded festival from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino before committing suicide before Police could neutralize him. With motives currently unknown and being investigated, Paddock’s actions are being described as the worst shooting in American history, having cost at least 59 people their lives and injuring at least another 527 more.
Enslin says that the reality of the situation wasn’t clear at first, with many believing the sounds of gunshots to be fireworks, or some other source.
“When the first set of shots went off…I have to honestly say that I was oblivious,” said Enslin. “I thought it was electrical going off…Everybody just kind of looked around. Even after the first set of shots went, Jason Aldean kind of paused, looked around a little bit, and then he kind of kept going kind of with fear in his voice but he was trying to keep the show going.
Then when the second round of shots is when everybody started to kind of panic. We all ducked the best we could, but we were so close to the stage that in order for us to move the people behind us had to move first.”
Fortunately, Enslin’s cousin, Rachel, has a military background, which Enslin says “got me up and out of there as quickly as we did.” The two’s location in relation to the stage also played a pivotal role in their survival.
“By the grace of God I was to the left of the catwalk,” said Enslin. “If I was facing the stage, the Mandalay Bay was pretty much blocked where the shooter was. I could see it, but we were really blocked by how tall the stage was…If I was on the right-hand side of the stage, I would’ve been in a clear view of the Mandalay Bay.”
When Enslin and her cousin began looking for safety, they found themselves exiting the area via the back of a bar, running away from the Las Vegas Strip and in the direction of the airport.
“We were out of the venue within three to five minutes, and then down some streets,” says Enslin.
The scariest part, she says, is when they found themselves in a cul-de-sac.
“When we got to the end of the street, we realized that it had a metal fence going all the way around,” said Enslin.
While others found themselves climbing over the fence, Enslin didn’t believe she would be able to do the same.
Instead, she utilized a concrete post to aid her over. However, her belt loop snagged the fence, causing her to become stuck.
“A man in front of me who was trying to jump over [the fence] was trying to unhook my belt loop from it,” said Enslin. “At that point, fear just completely came over me and I was like, ‘I’m not going to be able to get out of here alive. They’re coming and I’m stuck.’”
Rachel yanked on Enslin and helped her jump off the fence at the cost of her shorts.
“I just had to continue running without pants on, because I needed to get somewhere safe,” said Enslin.
That safe space came in the form of offices, where she remained with others until around 4 a.m. in the morning when they were cleared to leave.
Enslin sustained several minor injuries to her arms, which are currently bruised and battered. She says that once she was sheltered, she reached out to her father to let him know about the shooting. By that point, the incident had not yet made national headlines.
“My initial reaction was to get ahold of my dad, because I knew that my dad could relay the message,” said Enslin. “Even though I was somewhere safe, I didn’t feel safe. I still felt like at any moment someone could come in and shoot up the room and we’d all be dead…My dad didn’t really understand the severity, I don’t think, at the beginning because it wasn’t on the news yet. At that time, it had been 12 minutes since the first set of shots had gone off.”
Once released, Enslin and her cousin decided to come home earlier than originally scheduled.
“We knew we had no desire to stay,” said Enslin. “We packed up our stuff and we were on the road by 5 a.m.”
Now back in Downey, Enslin says it’s bittersweet to be safe at home, as part of her wishes she could be back in Las Vegas helping support those who are currently suffering. She encourages everyone to donate blood to help those who may be in need after the shooting.
However, she also says it’s now hard for her to be anywhere where there is a crowd.
“I don’t feel safe; I don’t feel I can leave my house,” says Enslin. “I’m extremely heightened on my surroundings…I’m afraid to be in a grocery store. I’m afraid to be in a restaurant, I’m afraid to go to school. I’m afraid to be anywhere where there’s a massive crowd, because you don’t know what anyone’s motives are now-a-days. The world we’re living is just so scary.”