Slaughter and Barman

Heidi Barman, left, and Michelle Slaughter attended the three-day country music festival in Las Vegas.


Michelle Slaughter, of Hebron, and her friend, Heidi Barman, of Dickinson, were two of the thousands of people whose love for country music had brought them to the Route 91 Harvest Festival.

She and a group of about 12 others from Dickinson and Williston arrived in Las Vegas Thursday for the three-day festival, which turned deadly on Sunday when a gunman from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino open fired on the crowd, killing 59 people and injuring more than 500.

Luckily, no one in their group was injured. Slaughter, reached by phone early Tuesday, said they all arrived home Monday evening.

"We were running for our lives," Slaughter said of the moments after a burst of gunfire.

She and Barman were standing in an open area at the concert, about 20 feet from the crowd next to the main stage. They — like many who attended the event — heard what sounded like fireworks being shot off.

“Well, you’re not thinking there’s machine guns raining down on you. So, I’m looking at the stage … Is it fireworks? Kind of weird," said Slaughter, who didn’t think much of it.

All of a sudden, a second round went off.

"I just looked at my friend and I said, 'Heidi, run,'" Slaughter said.

Amid the panic and confusion, the two ran to a food court area for shelter. Slaughter saw someone jump on what appeared to be a transformer and scale a fence; they did the same and ran.

“I just thought, 'Run, run as fast as you can and get out of here,'” she said, adding they ran into Hooters Casino Hotel and hid in a kitchen storage area.

They stayed there until they saw squad cars and ambulances outside the hotel, and that's when they knew it was safe to go outside and cross the street to the MGM Grand, where they had been staying.

They got to the airport several hours early.

"We wanted to get off the Strip and just closer to home," said Slaughter, a social worker at a Glen Ullin nursing home, mother of two and grandmother of two.

Slaughter said she's been to Las Vegas several times before and has never been scared to be there. Now, that may change.

“I just feel sorry for the poor people who went to the concert and (were) having fun and then are coming home without a loved one. I can’t even imagine. That’s not supposed to happen," she said.

Slaughter and Barman

Heidi Barman, left, and Michelle Slaughter arrived in Las Vegas on Thursday for the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival.

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or