by Susan Hartley, The Early Bird
Former Union City resident and Hospice nurse Chris Williford-Hole may never forget the night of Sunday, Oct. 1st.
“I’ve never been to a war zone, but could imagine that’s what it would look like. There were bodies everywhere,” said Williford-Hole of her experience following Sunday’s mass murder at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas, Nev.
Williford-Hole, who now lives in Miamisburg, is a 1990 graduate of Missisinawa Valley High School. She studied nursing at Clark State Community College, and has worked as a Hospice nurse.
Williford-Hole, 45, said she started her nursing career as a tech in the emergency room in Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton. “I would occasionally see gunshot wounds in passing as a tech. But I was not the hands-on person. Nothing like what I saw in Las Vegas. This was like a war zone.”
Williford-Hole flew to Vegas to attend the three-day country music festival at the request of a friend.
“A friend of mine had an extra ticket and knew I loved country music just as much as she does.”
The two attended all three days of the concert.
The a little after 10 p.m. Sunday, the crowd they were standing in began moving as the first shot ran out from Mandalay Bay.
“There were a lot of us in the area I was in. Everyone started shifting to my right,” as they realized what they were hearing was not part of the music or fireworks or a sound show.
“There was a pretty tall fence with a sound booth that provided some shelter to hid behind,” Williford-Hole said.
At only 4’11” tall, Williford-Hole soon realized she was not going to be able to get over the fence.
“My friend got over. I told her to go on. I knew I couldn’t go over. People behind me were pushing, shoving and stepping over me to get out. I ran back towards where we were. There were bodies everywhere.”
Williford-Hole then decided to do what she was trained to do – help.
“There was a guy – I just remember his face – and we were crawling through bodies checking for pulses, doing CPR. There was a girl with a gunshot wound to her leg. I took my belt off and used it as a tourniquet.”
At that point, Williford-Hole said she realized there was a back exit from the venue and she could see cars starting to pull up to help transport the wounded to area hospitals.
They had turned on the stage lighting as Jason Aldean left the stage,” Williford-Hole said. “It was still dark and you couldn’t tell who was moving, who was breathing.”
Williford-Hole described how she would wait until the shots would end as the shooter – Stephen Paddock, 64 – would either reload or pick up another weapon. She would then crawl to another person to help.
“There were shots ricocheting off things. I could hear them hitting right next to me,” she described.
“We would get people back to the back exit where we knew there were vehicles.”
At one point, Williford-Hole heard a women yelling, “I’m a nurse, too,” That women was attempting to help a young man just about his daughter Phoebe Hole’s age – 20.
“There was a kid, about 21 years old with an abdominal wound. I ran to the kid and she (the other nurse) asked me to hold pressure to his abdomen. I got in a car and helped her. I held pressure on the wound and talked to him.”
The hospital was on lock down, so Williford-Hole stayed to assist as much as she was allowed.
“There was blood running down my leg. They thought I’d been shot but it was just cuts and bruises. They told me I needed help, but I told them no.”
After refusing treatment for her injuries, Williford-Hole gave comfort to some young people who were standing just outside the hospital.
“I did that until we were told we were allowed to leave,” she said, grateful for the taxi drivers who were pulling up to the hospital to give free rides to area hotels.
Williford-Hole said she got back to her hotel, the MGM Signature, about 3:30 a.m. She called her daughter Phoebe – who is named after Phoebe Ann Mosy (Annie Oakley) – to let her know she was OK.
She then accidentally hit the phone icon on Facebook and Facetimed her partner, Amy Stuven, who was at home in Miamisburg.
Stuven couldn’t really see Williford-Hole’s face, but said she listened to 10 minutes of chaos.
“I wasn’t in the car yet (with the injured young man). I told her to tell everyone I’m OK and that I love them, just in case I don’t get home.”
WIlliford-Hole’s original flight back to Ohio was canceled on Monday. She ended up flying into Columbus very early Tuesday morning.
Although she admits it’s going to “probably talk a long time” to recover from her Las Vegas experience, Williford-Hole does have a piece of advice for those thinking twice about canceling future plans, like attending concerts or sporting events.
The one thing I want people to remember is that I saw people helping. It didn’t matter what color, what music you like, what sexual orientation you were, what political party you belong to. If we let these kinds of people stop us from living our lives and enjoying these types of events, then they win.”