Moments before the shooting began Meagan and Matt Craig were listening to the music of country music legend Jason Aldean at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas.
“I’m a huge country music fan,” said Meagan. “Jason Aldean is my favorite musician and I was extremely excited to get to go to his concert.
“We were so close to Jason,” said Meagan, the daughter of Fred and Mary Newirth, of Cordova, and a 2006 graduate of Cordova High School. “We were really enjoying the night.”
Then the sound of shots were heard, later confirmed they came from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay resort, aimed into a crowd of some 22,000 country music fans.
Following the discharge of hundreds of rounds of ammunition, 59 people died and over 500 others were injured.
“Several songs into the concert, we heard what sounded to me like a speaker malfunction, or a helicopter that was too close,” she said. “Then Jason (Aldean) ran offstage, and we heard bang, bang, bang – then we were on the ground and my husband was covering me. The shots just kept going on, all around us. Concert security was yelling, ‘Go! Go! Go!’ and Matt got up, pulled me up, I grabbed my friend’s hand, and we just started running.
“The shots just kept coming. We never stopped …
“We didn’t look back. Shots and shots, and more shots were being fired. We went as far as we could, as fast as we could. People were dropping all around us.
“I knew it was gunfire. I thought, ‘This is what it’s like. This is it.’ I knew it was something bad. I saw people – I saw a woman, with significant wounds, it was just so bad. We were running, everyone was yelling and screaming, I tripped and fell. We were running through trampled down fences by the airport. Eventually we ran all the way to an airplane hangar. There were about 10 people in there, at first, and we hid behind some carts at the back,” she said.
The Craigs were among the lucky ones, at length escaping without injury along with two other couples with whom they had traveled from Valdez.
From their hiding place in an airport hangar, they called the police and stayed on the line with them until medics showed up to treat injuries and wounds of others hiding in the hangar.
Airport buses later showed up and shuttled people to a safe zone at the University of Las Vegas’s Thomas and Mack Sports Center, where they spent the rest of the night.
The next morning, they were cleared to leave the safe zone, but the Craigs, booked into the Mandalay Bay Resort, could not return to their hotel, from where shooter Stephen Paddock, 64, had repeatedly fired upon the concert-goers before reportedly killing himself.
The Craigs, the parents of Austin, 4, and Anina, who will be two in December, left Las Vegas Oct. 2 without their belongings, and headed home to Valdez.
“We’re extremely lucky to be alive,” she said. “I am so thankful to be alive. We hear about these things happening, shootings, evil things. But where we live in small town Alaska, these things never hit close to home. We feel compassion when it happens, but we’ve been sheltered in Alaska our whole lives. I feel lucky to be back in our little town and in this environment, where it feels safe. I’ve never wanted to be back home so badly.”