PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Multiple people with local ties were in the middle of all the chaos in Las Vegas Sunday night.
Shawn Rawls, a Las Vegas resident who’s originally from Ocean County, New Jersey, was in the front row at the concert, he tells our sister station WXTU. He says he ran off, helping others along the way, and it took a while to feel safe.
“Everywhere we went we felt like we were getting shot at. We heard that noise follow us. Everybody thought they were gonna die for 20 minutes,” said Rawls.
Around the same time, Center City attorney William Ciancaglini, who’s in Vegas for a friend’s birthday, was heading towards the Mandalay Bay area.
“I went from walking on the strip to, 10 seconds later, running from machine gun fire,” said Ciancaglini.
He says hundreds of people were making a mad dash in his direction so he turned around and ran back to his hotel. He has high praise for the officers who ran towards danger as he and others ran away.
For Allentown native Ben Sweeney in Vegas for a business trip, the gunfire left him frozen.
“To me, it sounded like he was in the room next to me,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney landed in Vegas Sunday night and checked into his room on the 30th floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort, where he would self-impose a lockdown amid the gunshots.
According to authorities, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock cleared the window of a room there and started firing into the crowd.
“I wasn’t putting two and two together realizing there was someone two floors above me shooting 200 yards away, 32 floors down – across a road into that concert,” Sweeney said. “Unfortunately like September 11, this is something that’s going to stick in my mind probably for the rest of my life. I pray for everyone out there and hope the best outcome for everyone else still injured.”
But he says he refuses to let this experience force him to live in fear.
“It’s not going to change who I am. We have to persevere over the top of these people and persevere and be stronger and come together,” he said.
Hundreds who ran from the barrage of bullets, a scene Ron and Sue Benson of Lawnside, New Jersey saw while returning from dinner to their hotel at the Luxor, behind Mandalay Bay.
“It was chaos, it was just pandemonium – as soon as someone said there was a shooter,” Benson said.
Benson says she took off her heels and started running too, slicing her feet on glass and stones along the pavement.
“We were trying to get out of the area because we didn’t want to die,” she said.
It also happens to be Sue Benson’s birthday; she says the mood Monday in Vegas is somber — completely opposite what it was when she arrived on Sunday.
Philadelphia attorney Bill Ciancaglini, in Las Vegas for vacation, says he is staying at the Monte Carlo also close by to the Mandalay Bay Resort.
He saw people running for safety.
“They just looked terrified. I don’t think I’ll forget it for quite some time,” he said.
Steve Gold, of Wilmington, Delaware, arrived off his plane from Las Vegas with weary eyes and an aching heart.
“I actually called my mom while shots were being fired and I told her I loved her. I’m going to run I’ll be ok,” said Gold. “The whole plane ride home you just start crying, like why did this happen?” said Gold.
Gold says that the rapid-fire shots he heard seemed to be directed towards the stage.
“Some people just had blood everywhere I don’t think it was from them sometimes I think it was from people trying to pick people up. The next thing I know I jumped inside of a taco stand,” he recounted with CBS3’s Alex Hoff.
Gold then went on to help hoist a bike stand on its side so that a large perimeter fence could be scaled.