This article was originally published on goerie.com by Sarah Grabski on Oct. 2, 2017.
A.N.N.A. Shelter Director Ruth Thompson and her boyfriend, Craig Stainbrook, were at the Route 91 Harvest Festival when the shooting started.
Ruth Thompson, director of Erie’s A.N.N.A Shelter, was attending the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas Sunday night when a gunman opened fire across the street from a hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
“I’ve never been so scared in my entire life. It was the most terrible thing I’ve ever seen,” Thompson said through tears during a telephone interview Monday morning. “There were people getting shot all around me. Bodies just laying.”
According to reports from the Associated Press, at least 50 people were killed and 400 people were injured in the shooting. The gunman perched on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, where Thompson and her boyfriend, Craig Stainbrook, also from Erie, were staying during a vacation. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Thompson said she and Stainbrook were seated in what she called a “VIP trailer” when she heard shots ring out.
“I heard the first three shots and I recognized them as gunshots right away,” she said. “I grabbed Craig’s arm and we got down right away. And I heard the machine gun. Bullets were hitting our aluminum trailer and I was just waiting for one to hit me. I thought I was going to die. I thought about my mom, my daughter, my dog.”
Thompson said she dropped to the ground with a group of people, praying aloud and waiting for the gunfire to cease.
“I just kept thinking we had to run away and get away, as stupid as that sounds,” Thompson said. “A cop told us to run and pointed us in a direction to get out and I just kept thinking he was still out there and we were still in danger.”
Thompson said she and Stainbrook were “running on the freeway” when they stopped a car and asked if they could get a ride.
“I would never do that normally. We were just so scared. And we got so lucky,” she said. “This nice couple took us to a hotel and we’ve just been sitting here and watching the news coverage. I just can’t believe this actually happened.”
All of Stainbrook and Thompson’s belongings are still in the couple’s room at Mandalay Bay, she said.
“I don’t even care at this point. I just want to go home. I’ve never wanted to go home so badly in my life,” she said.
SWAT officers using explosives stormed the gunman’s hotel room and found he had killed himself, according to reports from the Associated Press. He was identified as Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada. There was no immediate word on the motive for the attack. More than 22,000 people attended the festival.