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A SoCal survivor of the Las Vegas tragedy speaks out

A Glendora woman shares her experience of the October night shooting in Las Vegas.

A+shrine+dedicated+to+the+victims+of+the+Las+Vegas+shooting+surrounds+the+Las+Vegas+welcome+sign.
A shrine dedicated to the victims of the Las Vegas shooting surrounds the Las Vegas welcome sign.

A shrine dedicated to the victims of the Las Vegas shooting surrounds the Las Vegas welcome sign.

Michelle Wolters

Michelle Wolters

A shrine dedicated to the victims of the Las Vegas shooting surrounds the Las Vegas welcome sign.

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Michelle Wolters could never have anticipated the horrors that would ensue as she anxiously waited for country singer Jason Aldean to take the stage at the Route 91 music festival in Las Vegas, Oct. 1.

Wolters is a 23-year-old nursing assistant from Glendora, California who attended the music festival with her boyfriend, David Hendrickson. During Aldean’s performance a popping sound could be heard in the background; the couple thought they heard the sounds of fireworks.

It wasn’t until they saw Aldean run off the stage that they realized that the popping sounds were gunshots.

“People started ducking and running and pushing to get away,” Wolters said. “The guy in front of me who was with his girlfriend, grabbed my hand and pulled me down to duck and cover when the shots started up again.”

To the right of Wolters was her boyfriend, who was ducking for cover when he noticed that a man next to him had been shot in the foot.

“I was just in shock and disbelief that it could be gun fire. There’s no way I thought, not here at a place like this,” Wolters said. “My adrenaline was so high, the whole time I was just thinking ‘we have to get out now, we have to get out now.’”

After the first four rounds of gunfire, Wolters said she was able to hop over a gate and crawl across to hide under a sound booth.

“I was yelling at my boyfriend to hop over and right before he did the guy next to us was shot right in the head,” Wolters said. “I could hear his girlfriend screaming, as my boyfriend looked around and saw so many people laying on the ground in blood. He then jumped the fence and crawled on top of me to protect me and said that we needed to stay here for a while.”

The Las Vegas Police Department ushered frightened concert goers toward the exits.

“When we got up I was yelling at people to keep moving forward,” Wolters said. “The girl in front of me was laying on her stomach not moving. I kept shaking her trying to wake her up and tell her that it would be okay and to keep moving forward. I thought she might have been dead.”

Wolters and her boyfriend had to leave the girl there, running as fast as they could toward the exit. As they ran they past several dead bodies on the ground.

Wolter’s boyfriend Hendrickson, who is an EMT, insisted he needed to go back inside the venue to help.

“I begged him not to go back in and said that we should help people who already made it, and that’s when we saw a couple who were both bleeding — so we ran over to help them,” Wolters said.

The man had been shot in the arm and was holding a shirt around his girlfriend’s head who had been grazed by bullets.

Once they were able to run across the street, Wolters and Hendrickson were able to drive the couple to the hospital where they were expected to be okay.

“After we dropped them off at the hospital, we drove to the nearest 7-11 to wash the blood off of us,” Wolters said. “We sat in the parking lot for a while in shock of all that had happened.”

That night they took shelter at a friend’s house, where they stayed awake to watch the news.

Wolters described the relief she felt when she was finally able to return home to her mother, who was anxiously waiting for her in the driveway as she pulled up.

Wolters said she has since struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt. She has been able to cope with the situation through counseling and being part of a survival group, where she can share her experiences with those who were there.

“What I really wanted was a group to talk to with the people that were there that night,” Wolters said.

She told her therapist that she couldn’t stay off social media or the news because she was looking for more survivors to see how they were doing, she began having survivor’s guilt.

“I just didn’t understand why I didn’t get shot when everyone around us did,” Wolters said. “I felt that we should have gone back to help more people. I know that I can’t think that way, that I did the best I could in the situation and that I have to keep moving forward and living my life to the fullest, because I did make it out and I have another chance to live.”

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