Local woman recounts chilling experience in Las Vegas

October 13, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

A local couple’s dream U.S. getaway soon turned into a living nightmare after they were caught up in the aftermath of the bone-chilling massacre on the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 1 which claimed 58 lives and injured hundreds more.

Brenda Wilson, owner of The Cut Above hair salon in Shelburne, and husband Bruce Lemcke, an Orangeville Police officer, arrived in Las Vegas early on that fateful day. The couple had ventured out west for what they hoped would be a nice, relaxing one-week holiday away from home. Unfortunately for them, what they got was much, much different.

At approximately 10:05 p.m., a heavily armed gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, opened fire from the window of his 32nd floor Mandalay Bay hotel room, his automatic firearms taking aim at the thousands attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival taking place outside, in the Las Vegas Village. The shooting lasted roughly 10 minutes. Four of the 58 individuals who lost their lives were Canadian. In total, a further 489 people were injured and as of last Friday evening, 78 patients remained in hospital, including 34 in critical condition.

Enjoying their first evening in the city, Ms. Wilson and Mr. Lemcke were in the Paris Las Vegas casino when they noticed people flooding in from the streets, most of them screaming.

“We didn’t see or hear anything before. The first we knew anything was wrong was when people started to run inside the casino, they were screaming and crying, then we heard someone say there was a gunman and people had been shot,” Ms. Wilson recalled. “From what we were hearing, these people thought the shooter was out on Las Vegas Boulevard.”

The panic spread like wildfire as people raced towards the exits, hoping to get themselves to safety. Ms. Wilson said she noticed several people getting trampled in the herd, but couldn’t even contemplate stopping to help out of fear that she too would end up on the ground. Eventually, the pair made it out into a back alley, where they were met by heavily armed police officers.

“That was scary,” Brenda said. “We had to have our hands up and were told not to move because, at the time, the officers thought the shooter could have been anywhere.”

They were then ushered north, away from Las Vegas Boulevard, which was completely closed to the public.

Ms. Wilson and Mr. Lemcke found refuge on a monorail car, where they befriended a young couple in their mid-twenties who were having trouble getting back to their hotel. Unable to find transport to take them back down The Strip, the couple, from Denver, Colorado, were left in limbo until Ms. Wilson and Mr. Lemcke offered them a place to stay for the night.

The next day was described simply as “surreal” by Ms. Wilson as she remembered the sullen atmosphere that strangled ‘Sin City’. A safe-enough distance from the horrifying scenes at Mandalay Bay – the couple staying at the Hilton Grand Vacation – they went about planning the rest of their trip, with five full days to go before they were due to fly home. While she said they did manage to enjoy themselves throughout the remainder of their stay, the massacre was still very much in the back of their minds.

“It was pretty horrific. I genuinely believed that someone was going to start shooting when everyone was running around on the Sunday,” Ms. Wilson said. “Obviously, from then, we were pretty cautious for the rest of the trip. Every time we heard someone yell or scream, we’d jump out of our skin because we’d be so nervous.”

She added, “The atmosphere was what got me, though. It was really, really quiet. There weren’t a lot of people around. Sure, we felt safe because of the increased police presence, but how safe can you truly feel after something like this happening?”

In the end, a trip that was designed to allow Ms. Wilson and Mr. Lemcke to unwind and relax had the opposite effect. Brenda candidly told the Citizen this was an experience that was going to stay with her for a long, long time.

“I’ve thought about it every day since, and I will probably think about it every day for the foreseeable future,” Ms. Wilson concluded.


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