Shaleen Hanson’s mom called at 10:10 p.m. Sunday. She was screaming. The 27-year-old daughter could hear what sounded like gunshots and chaos in the background.
All the daughter in Post Falls could do was listen to the frantic calls from her mother, Crystal Hanson, from Hauser Lake, who was in Las Vegas over the weekend with her brother and his partner to take in the country-music concert that morphed into the deadliest mass shooting in the country’s modern history.
By Monday afternoon, authorities put the casualties at 59 dead and 527 wounded. Hanson’s mother and her uncles were not among them.
“She said, ‘Shay, there are bodies laying everywhere. She didn’t even know where to go,” Shaleen Hanson said. “Someone with a clear mind said, ‘Get down. Get down.’ They were running around like crazy. They didn’t know where was safe.”
Crystal Hanson’s brother, Michael Hanson, had left with his partner, Christopher, both of Long Beach, Calif., to get something to eat. Jason Aldean was performing on the stage when Crystal Hanson said she heard what sounded like firecrackers.
Aldean began to look around and the mother knew something was wrong when the country-music singer dashed off the stage. She immediately called her daughter because she was alone even though she was among thousands of concert goers.
“You can still hear the panicking in your mother’s voice,” Shaleen Hanson said Monday. “When it is one of your family, and it hasn’t even hit the news, it’s terrifying. You feel so helpless. There is nothing you can do. There is nothing you can say.”
To make matter’s worse, her mother - who had attended dozens of similar events with Shaleen’s uncle - had a cell phone that was about to lose it’s battery power. As a result, the mother made a series of short, yet frantic, calls as Shaleen flipped her television onto CNN and she logged on to Twitter to see if she could help her understand what was happening.
“All I could hear was screaming. Everybody was screaming, and you could hear ‘Pop, pop, pop,’” she said. “Mom said, ‘Shay, there is a terrorist attack. I lost Uncle Mike. I lost Christopher.’”
The two men dove under a car. Shaleen Hanson said he spoke to her uncle who spoke in hushed tones, because both men feared the shooter was among them. “All they could see were feet.”
Both her mother and uncle told them that many of the concert attendees rushed for safety toward the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. But they were turned away by security guards who shouted that the shooter was inside.
“She was just running between buildings,” Hanson said. “They didn’t know where the gunman was at or how many there were. There was nowhere for them to go. She kept saying, ‘I love you, I love you. I’m so scared.’ She was by herself. She just wanted somebody with her.”
Authorities later identified the shooter as 64-year-old, Stephen P. Paddock who broke out his window on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel and fired on the crowd with automatic firearms from about 500 yards away. As a result, no one seemed to realize where the bullets came from.
Crystal Hanson told her daughter that she “kept going in and out of bars and hotels. Every time a gunshot went off, it was just mad panic. I was terrified. It was almost like you are there.”
The uncles eventually crawled out from underneath the car and found shelter in Hooters Casino Hotel. Michael Hanson, who is originally from Spokane, had someone’s blood spatter on his shirt but he doesn’t know from where it came, Shaleen Hanson said.
“We lost contact with them. They said no one could be on their cell phones,” she said. “There was a half hour when we couldn’t get ahold of anybody. That was the scariest time, and all you see on CNN is more casualties and more wounded.”
Her mother eventually made her way to the Excalibur Hotel and Casino, which is where she had paid for a room. She and several hundred others huddled in blankets on the top floor.
The mother and uncles weren’t reunited until about 4:30 a.m. Monday. Crystal Hanson was due to arrive back in Spokane sometime just after midnight Tuesday.
In the meantime, Shaleen Hanson kept updating her mother with news updates.
“I was up until 4 am. I was telling them as much as I could,” Hanson said. “People were walking around wounded. I never heard anyone so terrified. It was a mad house.”
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