Vegas shooting

Beau Flom, right, his wife and two other Fargo couples were at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas when a gunman opened fire on the crowd from a high floor in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Sunday night, Oct. 1, 2017. At least 58 people were killed, and hundreds were wounded.

Submitted photo, Forum News Service

LAS VEGAS – Beau and Adrianne Flom and two other couples are devoted country music fans. All regularly attended WE Fest concerts together as a summer ritual.

So it seemed natural that the three couples would travel together to attend the Route 91 Harvest Festival, a three-day celebration of country music near Mandalay Bay casino on the strip in Las Vegas.

“It was just a fun event,” Flom said, recalling their decision to attend.

On the final act of the music festival’s final night, Sunday, Oct. 1, when singer Jason Aldean and his band were several songs into their set, a rhythmic popping sound rang out during the outdoor concert. Beau Flom at first thought the noise was fireworks. He looked up in the sky, expecting to see a colorful display.

But the sky was empty – except for the cracking sound of gunfire whizzing overhead.

“All of a sudden it opened up,” Flom told The Forum in a phone interview Monday. “It was full-on automatic machine gun fire. It was constant fire, fully automatic. Like a war movie.”

As luck would have it, the Floms and their friends, Matt and Chris Myrvold and Jon and Lisa Hanson, all of Fargo, were seated under a tent in a VIP section close to the stage.

Flom, who had been a Navy medical corpsman, immediately recognized the sound. The gunfire, coming from a high vantage point, was constant. The tone sometimes shifted, apparently as the gunman was switching guns; each caliber had its own auditory signature.

“It just kept coming,” Flom said of the automatic rifle fire.

Once the crowd realized the pops were gunfire, people began scrambling to get away. The band, which also was under fire, abruptly cut the stage lights. “All of a sudden the stage just went black,” Flom said. “The band ran off the stage.”

“At that point, we got down,” he added. “For as big of a crowd as it was, it was a well-orchestrated exit,” Flom said. But also chaotic. “Everybody was running,” he said.

The Floms and their friends decided to stay near their seats. The awning tent screened them from the gunman, making them invisible. It seemed wise to take advantage of the cover, so they laid down underneath the seats.

“From his vantage point, all he could see was the tent, so we were protected that way,” Flom said. Similarly, Flom was unable to see any sign of shooting. “But I could hear it. It was coming right over us.”

After the gunfire ended – roughly seven minutes, by Flom’s estimation – they decided it was safe to flee.

“We didn’t stay under the tent very long,” Flom said, though he added, “We stayed under cover longer than a lot of people. The cops wanted us all to leave, so that’s what we did.”

As they were trying to leave, they saw a woman sprawled on the ground as someone administered CPR – one of hundreds of gunshot victims, according to Las Vegas police.

Concerned that they were now in the line of fire, Flom and his wife looked for a different exit path. In the bustle and confusion, the three couples became separated from each other.

Rumors were rampant as panicked people passed along tidbits of information and conjecture. They heard there were multiple gunmen in multiple locations – which later turned out to be false, according to police, who named a single shooter. “Kind of the chaos of speculation,” Flom said.

Once away from the concert area, the Floms and Myrvolds encountered a young couple from Arizona who were staying at another nearby hotel.

“We were locked out of Mandalay Bay,” Flom said. “Everything was on lockdown.”

Their room was on the 28th floor – as it would happen, four floors beneath the gunman’s room on the 32nd floor.

The Floms and Myrvolds spent the night on the floor of the friendly Arizona couple’s room in the nearby Excalibur Hotel, thankful to be safe. The Hansons had managed to hail a cab and checked into another hotel.

“It was very random,” Flom said of their chance encounter with the Arizona couple, whose names he could not recall after a sleepless night. “They weren’t attending the concert. They were very gracious.”

Flom had time to post a message on Facebook for friends and family: “What a crazy night! We are all safe and grateful to be alive. Hundreds of shots came over our heads. Say a prayer for all the victims.”

Later Monday morning, while the couples were having breakfast together at a Denny’s restaurant, Flom had a moment to reflect. They planned to fly back to Fargo later Monday.

“We’re very fortunate,” he said. “I’m happy to be safe.”

After surviving such an ordeal, would he attend large entertainment events in the future?

“Oh sure, absolutely,” Flom said. “Random acts of terrorism can’t affect how you live your life.”

After breakfast, the couples were walking back to the Mandalay Bay hotel when they heard police sirens coming straight for them. Police arrived and told them to run into the casino. Flom assumes another threat had been called in.

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