Lauren Card was desperately racing to escape one of the country’s worst mass shootings, bullets ricocheting around her, when she saw something that made her think she might survive: Las Vegas police cars, one after another, charging up to the concert outside the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
“I heard the sirens and saw the lights flashing, and I thought, ‘okay, the police are here — they’re going to take care of this, we’re going to be okay,’ " Card, 24, of Eugene, Ore., told The Washington Post.
She and her mother found the courage to escape by hopping over a fence, then scaling a 10-foot brick wall and running into a nearby casino with other traumatized spectators. In the end, 58 people died, and 851 were injured.
“We were in shock,” Card said. “You never think that you’ll be in such a horrific situation.”
After the Oct. 1 shooting, Card went home to Oregon and decided it was important to jump back into her regular routine. It was a challenge; she had survivor’s guilt. Her heart was no longer in pursuing her career goal of physical therapy or athletic training.
She wanted to do something completely different. She thought about the shooting constantly and the police who raced to the scene. She realized she wanted to be one of them.
“I decided that I wanted to be that sense of security for somebody else,” Card said.
Card graduated from Oregon State University in June with a kinesiology degree — and applied to be a police officer. Two weeks later, she was invited to the Springfield, Ore., police department to take written and oral tests. Physical and psychological exams followed, then an interview with the police chief, and, at last, the job offer.
“I always wanted to help people in some way, but now I knew that police work was where I should be,” she said.
In the summer, her goal was realized when her grandmother, Nola Baird, 74, pinned a badge on Card’s uniform as she was sworn in as an officer for the Springfield Police Department.
Card is now working as a patrol officer on the graveyard shift in Springfield — population 61,893. In November, she will spend four months at a police training academy in Salem, Ore., to become officially certified.
"I only hope that other people who were at the concert that night have been able to find some peace of mind and be happy where they’re at now, too,” Card said.
"All of us went through something that we never thought we'd have to experience."
She recalled how she was attending the Route 91 Harvest festival — a three-day country music concert across the street from the Mandalay Bay resort — when Stephen Paddock opened fire on more than 20,000 concertgoers just after 10 p.m. Card initially thought somebody was lighting firecrackers.
"Then there was a second volley, and I said, ‘That’s a gun — we need to get out of here!’ " she said. “We ran for a portable VIP building that was on risers and crawled underneath. It was chaos. Once people figured out that somebody was shooting, everyone started to run.”
Racing for the exit, Card saw trails of blood everywhere. A man who had been shot in the leg screamed in pain, she said, then got up and started running again.
“It was terrifying — we had no way to defend ourselves,” she recalled. “But then when the police started showing up, I had this feeling of contentment. I thought, ‘okay, we can do this. The police are here. They’ll fix it.’ ”
Now Card patrols with a partner on the night shift, responding to car accidents, domestic disputes and drunk-driving calls, knowing someday, she might get a call about an active shooter.
“I hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does, I’m ready,” she said. “I signed up for this because I wanted to help make my city a safer place to live for everyone. I’ve been through a bad situation, and now that I know how I will react to it, I think I’ll be able to relate to what victims go through.”