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Bethlehem woman experienced terror in Las Vegas during shooting

Jennifer Miller was just looking to have a good time at a Las Vegas show with her sister-in-law Charlene Gibson.

Unfortunately, that show was in proximity to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, where on Sunday night, Stephen Paddock shot and killed dozens of concertgoers at a country music festival across from the hotel.

“Me and my sister-in-law went out, just us two. It was our first time,” the Bethlehem resident said. “We were in the Cirque de Soleil Michael Jackson ONE show. The show started at 9:30, and at about 20 to 11 they stopped everything. At first they said they were having difficulties and to bear with them. We thought they were just technical difficulties.”

Assuming that those difficulties were a simple technical snafu that could be quickly resolved, neither of the women were concerned.

When a man in front of Miller and Gibson used Twitter on his phone, finding early reports of what was going on at the Mandalay Bay Casino, the situation quickly escalated.

“When he told us, everyone was crazed, and they got up to go to the exits. It was chaos,” Miller said.

SWAT forces entered the auditorium, the lights went out, and police ordered showgoers to dim and silence their phones. Sharpshooters covered the entrances and exits, one of which was close by where Miller and Gibson were sitting. A police officer told everyone in the audience to lay on the floor immediately.

At this point, Miller said that a real sense of terror set in.

“I called my mom and my son, to tell them I loved them, because I thought that this would be it. I could only pray and cry,” she said.

Police eventually provided an update to the audience.

During this time, they were still under the assumption that there were three shooters at the casino, but they confirmed that one assailant was dead. They were reassured that they were safe, but the feeling did not register with Miller.

It was very early in the morning when showgoers were escorted from the auditorium to the University of Las Vegas, which was surrounded by police. Though still panicked, support came in from every direction.

“The community really came together. They had water, food and blankets for everybody,” Miller said. “A couple came by with a truck, good Samaritans, offering a ride to anyone who needed it.”

By the time Miller and Gibson got back to The Flamingo, where they were staying, they were absolutely drained.

“We were just distraught. I stayed in my room the whole day. I called my travel agent to see if we could get home early,” Miller said.

Fortunately, they were able to secure a flight back, arriving home in the early Wednesday morning. However, another shooting incident, just blocks away from her home, interrupted her peaceful neighborhood that evening.

“Now, to come home to this, to be in a lock down in my own home, my nerves can’t take much more,” she said on Thursday morning. “This just sparked up that whole thing in my head again. It’s just too fresh, it’s still too soon.”

That lock down was lifted in the late morning, though Miller is still recovering from the terror of the Las Vegas shooting that has so far claimed 59 lives. Miller said that she is grateful to be safe and at home, thanks to the good people of the Las Vegas community and law enforcement.

“They went over and above, the law enforcement, the SWAT team, the metro police, everyone,” she said.

Jennifer Miller and Charlene Gibson pose for a photo during their Las Vegas vacation, where they attended a show close to the location of the shooting that claimed 59 lives on Sunday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO