Less than 48 hours after they were dodging bullets in Las Vegas, a group of Newfoundlanders who ran for their lives Sunday night returned home Tuesday to hugs and tears from friends and family.
Chris Crawley of Flatrock and Jeff Morey, Andrew Bragg and Chris Hearn of Torbay were among the crowd of 22,000 singing along to Jason Aldean during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival when shots started ringing out from the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel.
People in the crowd first thought the noise was fireworks for the show, which was wrapping up. But the second volley was recognized as gunfire, and some hit the ground, while others started running.
By the time police found gunman Stephen Paddock dead in his room on the 32nd floor of the hotel, he had killed 59 people and wounded more than 500 others in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Bragg said it was devastating.
'I just think, 'That actually happened to me,' and it kind of hits me a bit.' - Jeff Morey
"It's like you're running away. You don't even think you're actually a part of it. But in reality you are a part of it," he said.
Bragg, Crawley and Morey — Hearn was on his own, having just gone to the bar for a drink — found themselves with a group of others fleeing the torrent of bullets.
They made their way to a nearby building, where they heard conflicting and confusing stories about what was happening. Then they headed for the airport, where someone had knocked down a section of fence with a truck, allowing hundreds of people to take cover.
The three men happened to meet another Newfoundlander, Ashley Fowler, and a complete stranger from Las Vegas invited them home.
"She drove us from the airport, picked up Chris because he wasn't with us," said Bragg. "He was on the strip, which was very dangerous at that point. [She] picked him up. drove us back to her house, drove us anywhere we wanted. Hotel the next day to get our luggage, back to her house. Took us to the Hoover Dam, took us out to see a bunch of other things."
"She was amazing," added Hearn. "She really took us into our home and introduced us to her family. We really can't thank her enough."
Time to reflect
Now that they're safe and sound, the friends have time to reflect.
"When I'm talking about it, it's just like talking about a news story that happened," said Morey. "And then when I'm finished talking about it, I just think, 'That actually happened to me,' and it kind of hits me a bit."
Their friends and family back home in Newfoundland had also down some reflecting. Donnie Morey, Jeff's mother, remembers the disturbing call from her son the night of the shooting.
'Joy to bring our boys home'
"When he called me the other night at three o'clock in the morning to say the concert was under attack, oh my God I was devastated," she said at the airport Tuesday. "But it's good to have him home now."
She said she was grateful her trip to the airport was a happy one.
"We could be coming out here for different reasons today. And thank God that we're not," she said. "We're coming for joy to bring our boys home."