Survivors return to the scene in Las Vegas with the hopes of gathering belongings left behind in the chaos of the country's deadliest mass shooting in modern history. (Alice Li,Dalton Bennett/The Washington Post)

It was different in the light of day.

There was no sound of blaring sirens, no ‘pop, pop, pop’ of gunfire, no screams.

Just a quiet, sprawling lot of cars abandoned by those, like Kassidy Owen, who escaped with their lives.

“It’s strange to hear the silence,” Owen said, “because all I remember was the noise.”

The 22-year-old was one of dozens of concertgoers who returned to the scene of the Route 91 Harvest festival on Wednesday morning to retrieve the vehicles they left behind as they fled from a gunman raining down bullets from high above in the tower of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino across the street.

Survivors of the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday needed their cars to move on with their lives — to get back to work, to school, home. It was the first time they were returning to a scene that would forever alter them, when joy and celebration and music turned into bloodshed and chaos and horror.

Before they could move forward, they had to go back to the place where they thought they were going to die.

On the night of the shooting, Owen texted her mother at 10:14.

Mom

There is a shooter

Mom

Call me

Its an active shooter

People are dead


Kassidy Owen, 22, left, and Taylor Schmidt, 21, both of Las Vegas, are shown on Wednesday. They survived the mass shooting Sunday evening, but the sounds of the gunshots haunt them. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

Owen had run to her car to hide and had tried to drive away, but she couldn’t. People were running, bodies dropped to the ground, and cars bottlenecked in the parking lot. During a brief pause during more than 10 minutes of gunfire, she worried the lights of her SUV made everyone inside a shining target.

“‘They’re shooting again!’ ” her best friend’s brother screamed. “‘Turn off the car!’ ”

That’s when she got out and fled.

“I just remember slamming the door and running,” Owen said.

Now, nearly three days later, she was back, sitting in the driver’s seat of her SUV. Her eyes were puffy and red. This was a long way from over.

“You just keep hearing the gunshots in your head,” Owen said.


Survivors leave after picking up their cars from the Las Vegas venue where a mass shooting killed dozens and injured hundreds. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

Carlos Alfaro-Sandoval had jumped into the back of a police cruiser Wednesday morning with officers who escorted him through a lot cordoned off by police tape and fencing to look for his white truck.

As he rode through, he noticed shattered glass on the ground, bullet holes in the concrete walls.

“It should be in that back parking where they had all the employees park with all those white tents,” he told officers as they pulled up to a lot that was sectioned off.

“That’s unfortunately going to be the closed lot,” the officer told him. “They released cars from there but then the FBI thought there was going to be something related in the parking lot over there.”

Alfaro-Sandoval worked as a bartender at the country music festival. Upon hearing the gunfire, he briefly took cover but decided he had to start moving. He left his truck, backpack and tip money and just ran.

“I’ve got a 4-month-old and a 7-year-old,” Alfaro-Sandoval said. “That’s why I ran.”

He was hoping to reunite with his truck Wednesday to start returning to a routine life. Not being able to access it meant one thing: Having to return yet again some other day.

“The sleep is not fun. You start seeing the little visions or hearing the pops and people falling and just blood,” Alfaro-Sandoval said. “That’s the worst part. We were just jumping over people who were laying down or trying to help people up, but they couldn’t get up because they were . . . ”

His voice trailed off, too traumatized to say it: dead.


Stephen Charshafian, 59, speaks about Sunday night’s mass shooting and recalls helping wounded people. He and his wife hid inside their SUV until hearing a bullet hit the car, so they ran. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

Before Wednesday, the last time Stephen Charshafian saw his maroon SUV, he and his wife were inside hoping to escape the rapid fire of bullets cutting through the night.

There, the 59-year-old military veteran heard the strike of metal on metal. Charshafian knew that sound immediately. They weren’t safe from the rounds hurling toward them.

“It sounded like it had ripped right through the car,” Charshafian­ said.

He and his wife bailed and scrambled out into a neighborhood, leaving his wallet and cash inside the abandoned vehicle.

Here he stood, again, on the same street where just days ago he had loaded wounded and bleeding concertgoers into the back of a Jeep and helped direct ambulances and traffic through the chaos.

Charshafian choked back tears recalling the carnage and the brief moment he had been separated from his wife.

Charshafian of Long Beach, Calif., had thought about moving to Las Vegas before the shooting because the schools are better, there’s less graffiti, and it’s a cleaner place. That’s not going to happen now.

“I don’t want to stay any longer than I have to,” Charshafian said, his voice quaking. “I need to get away from here.”

Charshafian had gone back to the lot twice in previous days before he was able to retrieve his Ford SUV on Wednesday.

After inspecting a small dent beneath the license plate — where it looked like a bullet left a scar — Charshafian and his wife hopped in, finally able to drive away.


The scar from a bullet on Stephen Charshafian’s car. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)