Safe and sound: Sioux Falls woman escapes tragedy in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Morgan Werner, 23, of Sioux Falls, S.D. barely escaped unharmed from Sunday night's catastrophe, when a gunman opened fire on a concert crowd from a hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort. The assailant's rifle...
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Morgan Werner, 23, of Sioux Falls, S.D. barely escaped unharmed from Sunday night’s catastrophe, when a gunman opened fire on a concert crowd from a hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort. The assailant’s rifle rounds injured more than 500 people and killed 59, including a man who was standing just two feet from Werner.
Worthington resident Darlene Macklin was sound asleep at 1:30 a.m. when a call from her sister woke her up.
“You have to turn on the TV,” her sister said.
Macklin’s heart sunk when she saw the newscast - not only from seeing the horrific death toll, but knowing her niece was at that very concert. Macklin and other family members tried to reach Werner, but couldn’t. Werner had been taking pictures all night, and her phone ran out of battery.
Back in Las Vegas, Werner was able to find shelter, and a man from Austin, Texas let her borrow his phone. She had the phone number for her father Dennis memorized.
“I was so relieved to hear his voice,” said Werner, who is now safely back home. “And when I saw my parents the other day, I just ran off to them … I was so happy to see them.”
Werner is a huge country music fan, and a major Jason Aldean junkie. The three-day festival in Las Vegas was the fifth time Werner would see the country music star perform.
Initially, Werner couldn’t get any of her friends to hop along on the trip, but her friend JyLessa Levenhagen signed up, and the two were off.
On the third day of the festival, the two decided to get closer to the action, arriving at the Aldean concert early to get closer to the stage. As people were too rowdy on the left side of the venue, the two relocated from the right side of the venue and unknowingly placed themselves firmly in the gunman’s line of sight.
With Aldean’s fifth song underway, the two heard what sounded like firecrackers going off.
“Who the hell brought firecrackers to a concert?” exclaimed Levenhagen.
Suddenly, a man standing right next to Werner was shot in what looked like the stomach or chest area. A man standing about five feet behind her was also hit. The music stopped.
“Everybody get down!” screamed a crowd member.
The crowd became quiet as the gunshots subsided. Then, after only a few seconds, the rapid gunfire came back, inducing mass panic among the concertgoers.
“All of the screams ... it sounded like a horror movie,” Werner said.
Relying on instinct, Werner and Levenhagen made a run for it, leaping over a barricade and taking cover under the stage. As she scrambled toward the stage, Werner heard “tings” of bullets hitting the ground all around her.
“All I was thinking was please don’t shoot me, please don’t shoot me,” Werner said. “I just want to go home, I just want to see my boyfriend, I just want to see my family ... I just want to be home.”
The two hid underneath the stage for 15 minutes until police arrived. They took shelter in the basement of the Tropicana hotel - and didn’t make it back to their hotel until 5 a.m. - but they were not hurt, outside of a few bruises from jumping headfirst over the barricade.
Werner flew Monday to Minneapolis. Most of her family was there to greet her.
“If there’s anything I know now more than ever, it’s that I’m very thankful for family, because I was lucky enough to come home to family,” Werner said. “Not a lot of people are able to say that.”
The traumatic incident hasn’t shaken Werner’s passion for live country music. She plans to attend another concert Oct. 12.
“My mom told me, ‘you can’t live in fear, because then he wins,’” Werner said.