Former resident recounts shooting

Franklin graduate at festival during Vegas attack: ‘It was pandemonium. It was awful’

Five days after surviving the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, a former Franklin resident is trying to stay busy and not think too much about that night.

When her husband greeted her at the airport when she returned home to Florida, Natalie Vandivier said he told her that it is OK to be a survivor.

That’s the topic she’s been pondering since getting back home from the country music festival in Las Vegas where at least 59 people were killed and more than 500 were injured Sunday night. She keeps thinking about how that night could have turned out much worse for herself and her friend.

Since arriving home in Florida and getting back to work, staying busy has helped keep her mind off of what happened, Vandivier said. She tried to tune into the radio hoping to listen to political news, only to come across an interview of another person who had survived the shooting.

But she won’t let this event deter her from visiting in the future.

“I won’t let one deranged human being ruin my time in a place I enjoy,” Vandivier said.

For Vandivier, a graduate of Franklin Community High School and the daughter of former Franklin Mayor Edward Vandivier, that weekend began as a vacation to Las Vegas with her friend, Cindy Wilds, where the two go about once a year. Vandivier and Wilds, both of Sarasota, Florida, had arrived Friday evening for the Route 91 Harvest, a three-day country music festival. On Sunday night, they had moved forward from their seats in a VIP tent to about 30 yards in front of the stage.

Like many at the concert, when the bullets first started flying, Vandivier thought someone had set off firecrackers. Then the music stopped, someone yelled, “it’s gunfire,” and everyone dropped to the ground, she said.

After a break in the gunfire, Vandivier and Wilds stood up, grabbed each others’ hands and began to run.

“It was pandemonium,” Vandivier said. “It was awful. People were being trampled. Shoes, purses, water bottles, cups, drinks were all over the place because people literally just ran where they could.”

When they heard the sound of gunfire again, the women hid behind food trailers before getting outside the festival grounds and onto the Las Vegas Strip. Vandivier didn’t see anyone who had been shot, but she noticed a woman lying flat on her back with a man crouched over her.

“I never looked back to be honest, I just kept running,” Vandivier said.

Out on the street, they passed a SWAT team going the opposite direction, who told them to keep running, Vandivier said.

They ran into the nearby Tropicana hotel to an eerie sight: not a single person at any of the gaming tables or slot machines, and no casino employees in sight, she said. The women ran to the back of the casino, when a security guard confronted them and said they had to go back out onto the street, Vandivier said.

Vandivier and Wilds then made the nearly 2-mile walk north to their hotel, The Mirage. Security guards were checking room keys before anyone could get on the elevator. Once they got to their room, the two women turned on the TV and watched the news unfold until about 4 a.m., Vandivier said.

Because of the time difference, by the time they got back to their hotel and the news was unfolding, friends and family members in Florida and Indiana likely were already asleep. So the women sent text messages to their parents, husbands and sisters, and also used Facebook’s safety check-in feature to let people know they were OK.

“We didn’t want them to wake up and see the news and wonder,” Vandivier said.

She woke up to more than 40 text messages from friends and family on her phone.

Vandivier and Wilds stayed in their hotel all of Monday before flying back to Florida on Tuesday morning.

“I kept looking out the window and there was nobody out, it was unreal,” Vandivier said. “I’ve never seen Las Vegas like that ever.”

Vandivier plans to go back to Las Vegas eventually, but wonders if it will ever be the same again, she said.

Author photo
Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.