The effects of the Sunday night shooting in Las Vegas are being felt nationwide, but for the students and community of Dixie State University, the event has hit too close to home.
At about 10:08 p.m., only 119 miles from St. George, a gunman opened fire on the crowd during Jason Aldean’s performance at Route 91 Harvest, a country music festival in Las Vegas. The shooter fired at the crowd from his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel.
As information about the shooting began to surface, panic quickly spread throughout the people of St. George, many of whom are from Las Vegas or have friends and family who live there. In the spring of 2017, 545 DSU students came from Nevada. The vast majority of those students came from Clark County, which includes the city of Las Vegas.
Dean of Students Del Beatty said DSU is currently aware of one student who sustained a non-life-threatening injury.
Elizabeth Rinehart, a senior criminal justice major from Hemet, California, took a bullet to the leg during the shooting. Rinehart declined to comment on the situation to the Dixie Sun News.
“Although we are currently only aware of one DSU student that was a victim in the attack, there are several who lost loved ones, or had close friends and family members who were injured,” Beatty said.
Krisdie Snedeger, a DSU alumna from Richfield, was at the concert when the shooter opened fire. Snedeger didn’t realize what was happening until the second round was fired, and what she thought were fireworks were actually bullets raining down. She dropped to the ground, trying to crawl through the crowd, but people were trampling each other, making it impossible.
“I could see bodies falling next to me, but I knew I had to throw myself over a fence that was in the center of the area,” Snedeger said.
Doing what she thought was her only option, Snedeger ran through open fire to escape the targeted area and get to safety.
“People were throwing themselves under stage equipment; they were jumping into trashcans,” she said. “My friend and I just grabbed hands and ran into open fire as fast as we could.”
Luckily, she made it to safety, though the fear was still present. Snedeger said she thought the shooter was still on the loose and assumed there were multiple shooters close by.
Despite the fear and suffering surrounding her, Snedeger said she witnessed thousands of brave people risking their lives to help each other. Police officers, concert attendees and bystanders all helped victims of the attack.
“I sat behind a cement wall with a man [who was] shot in the leg next to me, and everyone was holding his leg to stop the blood until help could come,” Snedeger said. “He laid there for hours…There is so much goodness in humanity.”
Jessica Arruda, a junior elementary education major from Hawthorne, California, also said she witnessed the efforts of the Las Vegas Police Department, and what looked like police cars from other counties as well, racing to help those in need.
Arruda was at the festival and had watched Jason Aldean perform too. Having attended the previous two days in full, she and her friends decided to leave during Aldean’s set because they were tired. Though uncharacteristic of the group, they left early, she said. Just after they left and walked across the street to the Mandalay Bay, the shooter opened fire.
Arruda didn’t hear the gunfire because of the noise from the freeway, but as her Uber drove away, she said she saw countless police cars and ambulances passing. When she found out about the shooting later, she was overwhelmed with fear, sadness and gratitude that she and her friends were safe.
“We were there during the third song, and he started shooting during the fourth,” Arruda said. “I cheated death by a song.”
In light of her close encounter, Arruda said she’s coming away from it with a lot of forgiving and self-reflecting.
“Don’t take anything for granted,” Arruda said. “That could’ve been my last day, and I didn’t even know it.”
During this time of pain and confusion, DSU students and community members have banded together, standing in solidarity. Students held a vigil at the clock tower Monday at 9 p.m. to show support for the victims.
The DSU Health and Counseling Center is providing grief counseling to those in need, and the university is working with American Red Cross to offer assistance and coordinate blood drives.
“Our thoughts and prayers certainly go out to those impacted,” Beatty said.
Additional reporting done by Vanessa Manual and Spencer Ricks.