We Went For Donuts: Our Las Vegas Terror
That is until around 10pm, when Adam suggested we needed something sweet to eat. Donuts were on the suggested menu. Rather than us all get dressed again, I volunteered to go down to the Bellagio shops to Jean Philippe (a patisserie) in search of donuts. Lacy was keen to go with me, so we set off by ourselves, leaving Adam in the room. We found the shop and while they didn’t have donuts, they did have crepes and ice cream. I was willing to bet Adam wouldn’t mind the substitution.
We stood at the cashier counter as I paid thirty-six dollars for Banana Fosters and Dulce de Leche crepes, as well as two scoops in a cup of cookies ’n cream ice cream. The young female shop attendant attempted to give me my ice cream first when I rejected, “Oh, can you not serve it yet until the crepes are finished, I don’t want it to melt.” Lacy decided to walk across the hallway to the opposite shop for a bottle of water, while I stood in front of the glass watching the crepes being made. They were just crisping at the edges.
I heard what I thought were two gun shots: Pop! Pop!
Someone yelled, “There’s a gun, a shooter!”
I looked to the right and saw the wave of hundreds of terrified people coming towards us. I looked the other direction to see Lacy ten feet away coming back towards me, white with horror. Then the crowd was upon us with people just pushing, pulling, urging everyone to “keep going,” “move,” “run!” Somehow Lacy and I were swept into a crowd that was pushed into the back of house of the patisserie where I had been watching my crepes being made.
The Bellagio staff were calmly directing people. “Get into the freight elevator, then go down three flights of stairs, and out the door!” As we waited in the elevator for it to fill up, none of us knew if there was a shooter trying to join us, or if we were luckily going to be safe barricaded in this metal structure. Soon, the elevator was at capacity and some people couldn’t get on when the doors finally shut. I remember the terror on the faces of those left behind.
Then Lacy and I are being shuttled out the opposite side of the elevator and we are going down flights of stairs as directed. One flight. Two flights. Three flights. Where’s the exit? “Just think of this as a fire drill,” I said to Lacy, while also trying to calm myself. As we finally came to a door, we found ourselves in the middle of the expansive, outdoor pool area. Not exactly the safest place to be, we both thought, with no cover whatsoever. Lacy and I could also see through the hundreds of windows of the adjacent building corridors of the Bellagio. People still running. Fast. Fast and fearfully. These were the moments that I thought we could die.
As we were ushered into the outer chamber of Ballroom 3, we finally started to get settled. Then staff members started moving us again, into the inner part of the ballroom. This didn’t help alleviate any nervousness, as we thought we were being moved for a reason, e.g. away from potential, nearby danger. We quickly settled in behind a table full of sound equipment, and hugged the wall, taking special note of the many entrances surrounding the ballroom.
We met a few other people caught up in the same madness. A blonde lady next to us kept asking people for a mint as her mouth was so dry. Failing to find anyone, she took a Xanax. The couple to our left were from Liverpool, England, and I remember thinking how fabulous her white on white dress was, but that her eye liner was way too heavy. (As was her accent). The room started with about fifty people, but soon there were hundreds.
The mood of the crowd was varied. Some were trembling, while others were pacing. Having been caught up in the stampede and thrust through back of house stairs, Lacy and I had no desire to be front and centre. Throughout the hour or so of sitting in the ballroom, there was no information except for that coming from the various news sites on our mobile devices. This was extremely conflicting. Rumours abounded that there were multiple shooters, including CNN reporting that one of them was currently stalking the halls of the Bellagio with police en route.
During this time, I sat consoling Lacy, trying to block any negativity out of my own thoughts. “We’re just hanging out in a ballroom. There’s a bunch of people here. We’re safe. What a story this will be!” During the initial rush, I did have disastrous thoughts, however, sitting here, I felt a sense of calm come over me. I just wanted to get back to the room. I knew we would be safe there, however, neither Lacy nor myself really knew where we were.
Throughout the unfolding events, I had been sending short text messages to Adam about what was going on. At least, what we thought was happening. There wasn’t much I could say about our situation, but this left him feeling helpless. While I urged him to stay in the room, when we had settled into the ballroom he insisted on coming to find us. Unfortunately, he didn’t know where the ballrooms were either. I still think leaving the hotel room was a bad move on his part, but the things you do for love!
We had been in the corridor outside the ballroom for about three seconds when there was another loud Pop! and another throng of people started running towards us. Again, rumours of a gun were flying through the crowd faster than their feet were carrying them. Lacy and I ran back into the ballroom, this time diving under two tables next to each other, covered by table clothes. You could hear other people scuffling and screaming, and then there was a silence. I quickly texted Adam again, “Something happening. Stampede back in ballroom 3. Under a table.”
Any sense of calm I had before, was now completely gone.
Every foot step that you heard, or could see in the sliver of light between the end of the table cloth before it hit the floor gave way to imaginative possibilities of an active shooter stalking the room.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, Adam had been caught up in the same throng of people. He also heard the Pop! and stampede. He was forced outside to hide in a garden bed. The trauma that Lacy and I had experienced the first and second times, was now being experienced by him.
With that knowledge, I grabbed Lacy and dragged her to our room. That was my only mission: get us to a lockable room, and meet Adam there. On our way back there were many people lingering around, no one quite seemed to know what had happened, nor what was supposed to be happening. After a dedicated quick step, Lacy and I were back in our room, but Adam wasn’t. He had finally found the ballroom, to discover that we had already left. After about ten minutes he arrived back to the room to share his own harrowing experience as well. Seeing each other for the first time after these events … I could have melted into his arms forever.
Even though Adam and I had seriously talked about these type of potential events before coming on holiday, this is the type of experience I would have never expected to find myself in. The Bellagio team did a wonderful job guiding us to safety away from potential danger. When I close my eyes, I still have glimpses of terror: running, hiding, loud shots. Whether we wanted it or not, this was a giant punctuation mark to the end of our U.S. holiday.
Once on the road halfway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, we stopped and finally bought those donuts in peace.