Donna Williams Lewis was playing the slot machines Sunday night in the Harrah's Las Vegas Hotel and Casino when the wave of people rushed in.
There were gunshots on the Strip.
“People started running past me,” her son, Gibran Lewis, said. “It was chaos.”
Donna Lewis, a former reporter and editor for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was making her first trip to Las Vegas, along with her son, her sister and her niece, when 58 people were killed in the deadliest mass shooting in recent American history.
As the FBI still searches for a motive behind the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, President Trump touched down in Las Vegas Wednesday to visit survivors and first responders.
Donna Lewis and her son arrived in Las Vegas from Atlanta on Friday for a quick vacation with her sister Laura Williams and niece Samantha Williams. They initially stayed at a resort, before moving into the heart of the Strip.
On Sunday night Laura and Samantha had left, leaving Donna Lewis and Gibran behind for a couple of more days of relaxation and slot machines.
Donna Lewis had just hit on a slot machine and was settling in for a long night.
“Then I started seeing running toward me. Then more people running,” Donna Lewis said. “Someone was yelling “‘Get down. Take cover. Get out of here.’”
She said that people just started running, scrambling to find loved ones.
“So I got off my machine and ran behind some other people,” Donna Lewis said.
She and about a dozen people ended up in an emergency space.
“There was just mass confusion everywhere,” she said.
Gibran, meanwhile, was in another part of the casino.
“I didn’t even know what was going on, but when you see a horde of people running, the human instinct is to run with them,” Gibran Lewis said. “They were running manically. It was chaos.”
People were trampled. Jumping over machines. Dropping chips.
Gibran Lewis followed a group of people into a supply closet. They pushed carts against the door. Someone said she heard a gunshot.
“I am a victim of the flight response. I had no idea what was going on,” Gibran Lewis said. “It was crazy seeing the look on people’s faces.”
They both stayed in their respective hiding places for about 10 minutes before venturing to their rooms.
“What we went through pales in comparison to the real tragedy,” Donna Lewis said. “I am pretty sure that we were not in danger, but now I know how people feel when there is so much confusion and you don’t know what is going on or what to do. But everybody has a story to tell about that night.”
Donna Lewis, who worked at the AJC from 1979 until 2009, and now does freelance editing, said her reporter instincts pointed her to the scene of the shooting Monday morning.
“I couldn’t explain to my son why I had to do that,” Donna Lewis said.
But before getting to the Mandalay Bay, she stopped at the Luxor Hotel & Casino. , a 30-story black pyramid in the middle of a desert, to use the restroom.
“There was a young woman in the bathroom crying her eyes out,” Donna Lewis said.
The woman had been to concert the night before, where she had seen dozens of people killed.
“I came out of the stall and something just overcame me,” Donna Lewis said. “I walked up and asked the girl if I could give her a hug. She grabbed me and as I walked out, she said thank you. All she needed was for someone to touch her.”