Durham alum recalls terror of Las Vegas shooting

Durham grad Nicole O'Brien and her mom, Louise O'Brien, took a selfie just hours before a mass shooting in Las Vegas last year. Photo credit: Nicole O'Brien

Durham College grad Nicole O’Brien was enjoying the last day of a birthday weekend away with her mom in Las Vegas this time a year ago.

The “city that never sleeps” was in full tilt when one of the largest mass shootings in U.S. history took place.

O’Brien, a graduate of the journalism program, wasn’t at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, featuring country music star Jason Aldean, but was close enough to experience the terror.

“We started seeing people running, and sprinting pretty much,” says O’Brien, 23, social media manager at Discovery programming. “People were like ‘don’t go that way, there’s a shooter that way. Do not walk that way’.”

She says she and her mother were put in a nearby building by first responders for a couple hours. But despite the turmoil going on outside, they made her feel safe during what she says was the scariest, most terrifying moment of her life.

She wrote about the experience in April on a blog about mental health and wellness. She wrote about the stress and anxiety the event caused and how she was afraid to take time off work to heal.

She wrote, “But I didn’t want to talk about it. I felt stupid. I wasn’t at the shooting; I was just near it…I felt like I had to just brush it off, I wasn’t directly affected, right?”

O”Brien says although she’s healing, the shooting will stay with her the rest of her life.

Fifty-eight people were killed at the music festival, four of whom were Canadian, and approximately 546 were injured after the gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, fired more than 1,100 bullets into the crowd in just over 10 minutes. He shot from his 32nd-floor room at the Mandalay Bay Resort, directly over the festival.

The one year anniversary of the Las Vegas strip shooting was Oct. 1.

“A year is a long time and it does not feel like it’s been that long…I think sometimes it does feel like it just happened yesterday because there’s no answers to what happened or why it happened.”

In remembrance, the Las Vegas strip went dark at 10:01 p.m. along with 58 seconds of silence to honour the victims.