It was supposed to be a relaxing weekend getaway.
Instead, Mary Forbes was running barefoot down the Las Vegas Strip Sunday night, praying she and her husband would make it home alive.
“I just kept thinking I hope only one of us dies so our kids aren’t orphans,” Forbes, 46, of East Northport, said Friday.
The Forbeses were at the Route 91 Harvest Festival when Stephen Paddock went on a shooting rampage, killing 58 people and wounding nearly 500.
They returned home Tuesday uninjured but dazed and tense after surviving the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
They said they believe they survived thanks in part to Good Samaritans who helped them find safety and concertgoers who banded together.
“To the people who helped us, I would say thank you, there really are no words,” she said. “We were fortunate fate or God or the universe put those people in our path when they did.”
The Forbeses are big country music fans but had never attended a country music festival together.
David Forbes, 51, picked the Route 91 festival so they could see Jason Aldean, one of his wife’s favorite artists. He also picked it because of the location — they spent their honeymoon in Las Vegas nearly 20 years ago, and this would be their first trip alone together since then.
Festival security was tight, but the atmosphere was warm, Mary Forbes said. A number of people brought their children in tiny cowboy hats and boots and attendees made friendly small talk with one another, building a kind of camaraderie, she said.
Just as Aldean’s set was beginning Sunday night, the couple stopped to grab fresh beers before they planned to make their way to the stage. They talked to another concertgoer as they waited.
“We were going to go up to the stage, but hadn’t gotten there yet,” David Forbes said.
As they chatted, they heard what so many of those at the concert thought were fireworks. Excitement quickly turned into fear as they and the woman next to them realized the popping sounds were bullets.
The Forbeses said they ran with the crowd fleeing the stage area, but realized in the chaos that they couldn’t find the venue exit.
A festival employee pulled them inside a metal shipping container full of supplies and they in turn pulled other festival goers inside before hearing the disturbing ping of bullets bouncing off the container.
“It sounded like he was right there,” David said.
After about 10 minutes, they fled the container and time became “a blur.” They escaped through a hole in the venue’s fence and ran for what felt like miles.
Mary Forbes ran barefoot after losing her flip-flops and David Forbes carried an older woman who couldn’t run as fast. They climbed over benches, retaining walls and hotel landscaping, trying to find an open door until they got to the service entrance of Hooters Casino Hotel, about a mile north of the festival grounds.
“They didn’t seem like they even knew, everyone was still partying in the casino,” Mary Forbes said.
She and her husband got into an elevator to seek a secure hiding place. On the 19th floor, a Canadian couple who had heard the news let them and a handful of other concertgoers into their room and the group spent the night watching TV. They shared beers and swapped escape stories as they waited to hear it was safe to leave.
In the morning, the Las Vegas Strip was quiet. David Forbes said they walked back to their hotel, the Luxor, at about 7 a.m. and for several hours, the quiet was jarring.
“Not one slot machine was running,” he said. “People were just milling around in the lobby smoking cigarettes.”
They originally planned to see the sights on Monday and pick up souvenirs for their three children, but visits to the cheery M&Ms store and the other casinos felt strange. They flew home Monday night.
Mary Forbes, who is still wearing the festival bands wrapped around her wrist, said they are trying to stay positive. She doesn’t want to let fear change her or keep her from doing the things she loves, like going to concerts. She pushed herself to go to a B-52s show at The Paramount in Huntington on Thursday night.
“You hear things happen and you think is this going to be the day? The day the mall, or my kids at school, are on lockdown?” she said.
But she remembers the good times from the weekend too.
“We met so many nice people and that was such a great experience,” she said. “I would hate for that to go away because people are afraid.”