LAS VEGAS — Like many enjoying the final concert of the Route 91 Harvest festival Sunday, Travis and Haley Haldeman thought they were hearing fireworks when the first pops sounded.
But when the next volley started, the off-duty firefighter and his wife realized they had to take cover from gunfire.
They jumped behind a metal barrier near the stage. Travis’s heartbeat slowed; he knew he had to keep calm. But Haley was in hysterics. She kept thinking about their two children, 2 and 3, and how they should grow up with their parents — both of them.
During a brief pause in the gunfire, Travis turned to the woman he had married nearly four years ago and told her she had to run and he had to stay.
“ ‘Metro is really good at their job,’ ” the nine-year Clark County firefighter recalled telling her. “ ‘They’re going to get this guy quick. Run to the Tropicana, and I’ll meet you at home.’ ”
That’s when the couple split.
Haley thought she knew what she was getting into when she married a first responder. She understood he rushed into burning buildings and stormed into the places most people flee.
But in the moment, crouched to the ground with a barrage of mysterious gunfire piercing through the night sky, she didn’t want to be alone. And she realized she might never see her husband again.
“I knew he was going to stay,” Haley said.
She still heard shots when she ran to a podium and crawled beneath it, joining a scrum of other terrified concertgoers.
Haley said the Lord’s Prayer, over and over again.
. . . Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
The shooting stopped.
After separating from his wife, Travis jumped over the barrier and noticed the wounded people.
He rushed to a man who had been shot in the leg and was bleeding profusely. They took cover behind a metal pillar while Travis took off his belt and made a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.
Travis then threw the injured man onto his back, going about two or three steps as shots skipped across the pavement by his feet. Travis continued on about 100 feet and dropped the man off at a medical tent.
Travis hurried back out to help other victims who had been shot taking cover behind a bar. He took one woman shot in the hip into his arms and told another woman with a shoulder injury to grab his shirt while they headed for help.
Along the way, a group of about a half-dozen people were frozen by fear.
“We need to get out of here,” Travis said. “We can’t be part of the problem; let’s move.”
The most critically injured was a panicked young woman who was shot in the lower back. Travis tried to calm her down when an off-duty police officer appeared.
The officer had been loading people into his pickup truck to take them to the hospital when he discovered his own daughter was the wounded woman Travis was treating.
The woman’s father “miraculously just showed up with a backboard,” and they loaded her into the truck. Travis jumped on board, riding with her to the hospital.
Haley sprinted to the Tropicana.
Through the crowds, she and friends made it to an employee entrance. Frantic people crammed the hallways, and fire alarms wailed.
In the panic of fleeing, Haley didn’t realize she was missing her phone. She borrowed a friend’s and called Travis.
“It was hard to hear him,” Haley said. “He said he was on the back of a pickup truck taking a young girl to the hospital. I knew he was safe at that time. It was just a matter of getting home and getting together again. It was what I was focusing on and what I couldn’t wait for.”
Haley made it home just before midnight. Her children were asleep under the watch of their nanny, but she was a “hot mess.”
She called her mother in the middle of the night screaming, unable to calm down, wondering when her husband would return.
About 3½ hours later, relief.
Travis walked though the door, looking drained, but home.
“I gave him a big old hug and then gave him a little bit of a shove for not being together all throughout it,” Haley said. “I prepared for the kind of man I married. I know he’s that kind of guy, but in the moment, you have the selfishness of ‘I want my person with me.’ ”
It was difficult being away from his family, but Travis said he knew he had to help.
“I looked around and saw a lot of people that could benefit greatly from my experience and calmness,” Travis said. “It was just a split-second gut decision that I had to make.”