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The Instinct to Help

Three residence hall employees share their accounts of sheltering victims of the Las Vegas shooting.

Campus News  |  Oct 9, 2017  |  By UNLV News Center

While the Thomas & Mack Center served as a main refuge to concertgoers in the hours after the Route 91 shooting on Oct.1, a half dozen people found their way to Dayton Hall, where the Residential Life staff took them in. Here, three of them reflect on their experiences.

Alicia "AC" Monrroy

Residential Life Coordinator – Dayton Hall

The moment I found the terrified concert bartender down the hall from my apartment saying he did not want to go back outside, I knew I had to go into my Res Life coordinator mode. I felt helpless but I had to be one of the strong ones so the victims felt safe and secure.

One woman said she and her friend ran until they knew they were far enough away from the concert arena. They had ended up by the UNLV baseball fields and were lost before someone brought them to Dayton. She had no shoes on and her feet were completely black and dirty. I ran to my apartment to get a pair of socks and shoes for her. The shoes were definitely too small but she was so grateful she had something to cover her feet.

We had a UNLV police officer in the conference room with us for the majority of the time. It comforted me to have the officer there and provided another human presence for the victims.

Meanwhile, Eric Morrow, the coordinator for Tonopah Complex, spent the majority of the evening going back and forth between Dayton Hall, Tonopah Hall, and the Tropicana parking garage, where students had gathered outside. He brought water and snacks to victims, and he found clean Res Life program shirts in our storage closet so people could replace their clothes. He also checked on students who had gathered outside Dayton Hall and at the Tropicana parking garage.

I kept asking how I could help them and one woman told me, "Please don't leave us alone." I felt a glimpse of relief and comfort when they were able to get safe rides back to their friends/extended family homes. All of them were out-of-state visitors except for the bartender. When a man named Ryan was finally able to reunite with his friends, they sobbed in each other's arms. I held back my tears. I knew this night was going to be with them forever.

Lisamarie Tomassetti

Residential Life Graduate Assistant

Resident assistants Anna Opara and Elle Cross were the first to come in contact with the concert folks. They made sure they had a safe place to go while completing emergency protocols.

We talked with the victims and tried to make the mood a little lighter by asking them questions not related to that evening. We made sure that they had phone chargers so that they could keep in contact with their loved ones. We asked what they needed. One person just responded, "Please don't send me to the Thomas & Mack. I don’t want to be in a large group."

One of the individuals was named Lisa Marie. When she saw my nametag, she said, "This was meant to be." We both just smiled and exchanged a quick hug before she left for the night.

As a new graduate assistant on the professional staff, it was overwhelming. The first thought that went though my head that night was: get folks behind closed doors to safety. Then I had to make the calls to supervisors and to UNLV’s Department of Public Safety so they knew these people were here. Just last week I wasn't even confident about deciding when to call for maintenance situations. So that night I kept wondering, “Was there a protocol I was supposed to follow but completely forgot about?”

But once there was reunification and folks started getting home safely, I felt that we were all in the right place, at the right time, working to the best of our ability.

The next day — I think because I felt as if I hadn't done enough the night before — I had to help with the campus vigil and with organizing processing spaces for students. It was so important for me to be able to at least continue helping people in the aftermath. I wasn’t physically at Route 91, but I feel like I was part of all the chaos.

Eric Morrow

Residential Life Coordinator – Tonopah Hall

For me, it started around 10:25pm. I was sitting in my apartment when I heard an unusual number of sirens continuously going by. I went online and put on the Metro police scanner. It took a couple minutes to really put together, and perhaps accept, what was going on. I sent out a text to the professional staff at 10:27pm: "Something major going down. Someone or many shooting from Mandalay Bay."

At 11:29pm, AC (Monrroy) sent a text that some concert attendees were in Dayton. I was changed into my Housing polo and nametag. I grabbed a case of water and headed up to Dayton. After that, I decided to head up to the Tropicana parking garage because I just figured that was a natural gathering place for people  — like they do on the 4th of July. There were a number of residents up there from a number of complexes. I had some conversations with them, and they talked about the fear. What I found interesting was the use of technology to gather and share (often incorrect) information and also the instinct to help. At 1 a.m., they were already talking about giving blood.

The overall feeling was surreal. I worried about friends I knew were there. I worried that some of my staff might have been there. I worried about residents who I assumed were there. And I worried about my friends and family, who I knew would be worried about me.

During all of this, I was having group conversations with my RA staff. We talked about checking in on residents. Being available. And starting the process of accounting for residents. We have to worry about others and take care of them before we can take care of ourselves. For me, that process started at 5 a.m., which is about when I felt it was ok for me to try to sleep.

There's no perfect manual for this; in an emergency, you do what you need to do in the moment. No contribution is too small because it all makes a difference.