Faculty, students relate stories of family in Vegas

Social studies teacher’s son attended concert


A screen shot of the Mandalay Bay Hotel website.

Students, faculty and staff who have connections with Las Vegas reacted to the mass shooting that occurred there during a country music concert late in the evening on Oct. 1.

Junior Kayla Kendall: She said her parents are currently visiting Las Vegas and are expected to return to Indianapolis Oct. 4. “I saw (the reports of the shooting) on the news this morning and kind of freaked out, because I knew they were there. I texted them right away,” she said.

Kendall said her text was returned about two hours after she sent it, and her parents, Mr. Kevin Kendall and Mrs. Sherri Kendall, are safe. Kayla said her mother and father are staying at the Cosmopolitan, but about an hour before the concert, they were walking on the strip near the venue where the shooting occurred.

She received another text from her mother on the afternoon of Oct. 2, along with video her mother had shot of the area around their hotel, which had been on lockdown the previous night and well into the next morning.

Kayla says she has visited Las Vegas about a half dozen times and is familiar with the area in which the mass shooting occurred.

Mr. Mark Matthews, social studies teacher: Mr. Matthews’ son, Sean Matthews, was at the concert. Mr. Matthews knew that Sean was in Las Vegas with friends for the weekend, but was not aware that he was present at the concert. Mr. Matthews said, “(Sean) called me at 1:30 a.m., but it went to voicemail because I was asleep. I didn’t hear from him directly until I was driving to school this morning.” It was the first Mr. Matthews knew of the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

In the call, Sean described to his father what he saw and did at the concert. Mr. Matthews said, “Jason Aldean was playing what (Sean) thought was his last song, because it was one of his more popular songs, and he had been playing the concert all day. So when he heard popping sounds during what he thought was the finale, he assumed it was fireworks or other pyrotechnics; he didn’t realize it was a machine gun.

“But he didn’t see any fireworks, and then he saw Jason Aldean run to the back of the stage and take cover. (Sean) said that no one moved for what he judged to be about a minute or two later. You can’t really tell time in those situations.

“At that time, someone came on the microphone and said that they were having an emergency and to please proceed to the exits. He said at first everyone moved slowly, but then they heard more gun shots. People started panicking and scrambling all over the place in confusion.”

Sean made the call this morning from Las Vegas as he waited for his plane. “When (Sean) woke up this morning, he had over a hundred text messages from friends and people making sure that he was OK,” Mr. Matthews said.

Mr. Matthews said he is grateful that his son is uninjured. He said, “When I talked to (Sean), I told him that I feel really bad for everyone who was hurt or killed, but today is the feast of the guardian angels, and his must have been working overtime.”

Mr. Duane Emery, vice president for enrollment management: When Emery woke on Oct. 2, his first click on Facebook was a photo of his sister-in-law and brother-in-law having dinner at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas the night before.

A couple of posts later and reports of the deadly mass shooting at the Jason Aldean concert gave him a reason to be worried for the safety of his family.

Emery’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law flew to Las Vegas Oct. 1 with a couple of friends and were having dinner at the MGM Grand Hotel. At about 10 p.m. in Vegas (1 a.m. on Oct. 2 in Indianapolis) people started flooding into the restaurant. “All of a sudden my brother-in-law noticed something didn’t look right,” Emery said during an interview in his office.

They were escorted from the restaurant and put on lock down for four hours. Upon walking back to their hotel, the streets were said to be deserted. The only people on the sidewalks were heavily armed police and military officers.

Emery said it is likely that had he and his wife gone on this trip, which they considered, they would have attended the concert instead of going to dinner. He said he was worried for the safety of his family, but after learning that they are safe, he feels very sad for the victims and families who lost loved ones.

Mrs. Liz Bradshaw, English teacher: As a guest, Bradshaw said she stayed in the Mandalay Bay Hotel “about four years ago.” She said her room was located on a high floor (the shooter fired from the 32nd floor) but she did not remember a specific floor number. The hotel is meant to resemble a Polynesian resort, Bradshaw said, and the Mandalay Bay involves a tropical getaway. “It makes it even more horrific,” Bradshaw said, “that the resort promises this idyllic fantasy retreat, considering the carnage and terror that happened there.”

Bradshaw said she was shocked to hear the news this morning, but added, “This has become all too familiar to hear about shooters going on a rampage. The lack of gun control we have where they can get their hands on weapons that are not for hunting; (the weapons) are for hunting people.

“It makes you realize it can happen anywhere,” she said.

Catherine Jasper, Sara Kress and Caitlin O’Connor contributed to this story.