LAS VEGAS - It’s been four days since the Las Vegas massacre that left 58 innocent people dead, but the gravity of that tragedy is still being felt in our own backyard.
Jessica Church, a Kennewick resident and mother to a 6-month-old girl, was one of the lucky ones who escaped with her life and her health..
She gave KAPP-KVEW a first-hand account of the terror that thousands experienced that day and the seemingly miraculous story of her survival.
“Aching feet pushed us to go sit down by the food vendors, away from the large standing crowd,” Church said.
She heard three pops and looked around, trying to figure out what was happening. The crowd started to run as people screamed.
Her girlfriend had her boots off and made a frantic attempt to grab them. Church grabbed her friend’s purse and they screamed as they ran toward a nearby side exit.
“The rounds didn’t stop,” Church said. “There wasn’t even a breath between shots.”
According to reports, the shooter fired for close to 10 minutes before turning one of the guns on himself.
Church and her friend hid behind a medical tent and some metal containers with about 20 other people and an undercover cop who had his gun drawn. The cop said they were safest there.
“I heard the shots. Everything else was silent. I saw a man swoop up a young child and run. I couldn’t stop thinking of all the kids there.”
She remembers hiding for about 40 minutes, crouched but on her feet in case they needed to run again. She recalls the medical tent being unimaginable, full of people and blood.
Once she finally had a moment to think, she called her mom.
“I couldn’t hear her so I just began telling her that I was okay, hiding, but there was a machine gun shooter. That I saw a lot of people hurt but I knew I was okay.”
She prayed aloud with the group she was hiding with. They held each other tight and cried trying to stay calm.
“One gentleman gave me his dog tag necklace hat was to protect me. I read the prayer aloud to him: 1 Corinthians 6:12.”
Once they had a chance to exit, they ran toward the MGM hotel, passing dozens of injured people and EMTs asking who could help drive the hurt to the hospital.
She and her friend jumped into a cab and told the driver to go back to Planet Hollywood where they were staying. They ran to their room and locked the door.
“Hours went by before I could take my shoes off for fear of needing to run again,” Church said.
She flew back to the Tri-Cities on Monday, still in shock. “It all seems like a horrible nightmare and I keep hoping I’ll wake up,” Church said the day after getting back.
She said her faith and her 6-month-old daughter at home is what kept her strong.
“I saw many heroes that night. I’m so thankful for every one of them.”
Note: This interview was conducted via email. Ms. Church was not ready to speak in person.