Zoe Griffin | Contributing Writer
Las Vegas native Carrington Peterson was awakened Monday by 59 messages and notifications from family members.
“My parents decided to go on a ‘staycation’ [Sunday] night and got a hotel room,” Peterson said.
They stayed at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, where a gunman on the 32nd floor that night would kill 59 people, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old man from Mesquite, Nevada, was identified as the
sniper suspect by police. His room contained 16 rifles, one handgun, 18 firearms, explosives and thousands of rounds of bullets, according to law enforcement personnel.
Shots red Sunday night from the Mandalay Bay down to the Route 91 Harvest country music festival sent thousands frantically scrambling for cover. As of Wednesday, the injured total was 527 people.
Not only were Peterson’s parents in the hotel Sunday night, her sibling was in the vicinity.
“It was also my brother’s birthday, so he was out celebrating on the strip,” she said.
Peterson was one of thousands of concerned family members unsure Monday about the whereabouts of their loved ones in Vegas. Her racing thoughts worsened as she worried about the well-being of her family.
“I cried, and I’m not one to show emotion immediately or at all, honestly,” Peterson said. “But waking up to those notifications was nerve-racking.”
Peterson’s parents, fortunately, were safe.
“By the grace of God, they checked out of the Mandalay room an hour before the shooting occurred,” she said. Peterson was relieved when she discovered her brother also had not been harmed.
However, despite her family members not being physically affected by the tragedy, the massacre has taken a toll on them mentally.
Peterson had always been aware of terrible tragedies that occur in America, but this tragedy in particular affected her in a different way because the area was all too familiar.
“Things have been happening so much in this country lately, and it has gotten to be the norm,” Peterson said. “But to have something happen in your town, where you come from, is an entirely different feeling.”
The motive behind the shooting remains unknown. Paddock reportedly committed suicide moments before police entered his hotel room.
Peterson is among those who suspected mental illness played a big role. She thinks this disaster should bring awareness to the issue.
“I hope that this tragedy raises awareness of mental illness because it does not get enough recognition,” Peterson said. “It is a life-challenging disease that isn’t taken seriously.”