One month after the United States’ most fatal shooting, a Revelstoke mother of two continues to surround herself with friends and family.
It was the third night of the Route 91 Harvest music festival and Tiffany Beerling, 32, was ready to let loose. She wanted to have a good time after a migraine had kept her from enjoying the festival the night before.
Beerling was at her first Vegas festival and wanted to have fun with her friends – Amanda Quinlan, Dawn and Bobbi Doebert and Tara Reiner.
Beerling had been friends with the Doebert sisters for more than a decade and Quinlan, who lived nearby in Revelstoke, always had goodie bags for Beerling’s kids at Halloween.
The group had travelled to music festivals before, organized by Dawn, but this was Beerling, a huge country music fan’s, first.
“This is the first one I kind of save up for and decided I was going to do,” she says.
The first night the group had gotten split up. So on the final night, they’d made a pact.
“We were going to stay as close to each other as possible,” says Beerling. “And if anyone got lost, we were going to meet at a particular palm tree, because we didn’t have a plan the first night.”
Beerling’s anxiety about being in crowds was improving. The first night had been hard, but being outside helped.
The group was standing back from the stage, close enough that they could see country musician Jason Aldean performing, but far enough back that he was pretty small.
A couple they’d met earlier in the festival, who were celebrating their second anniversary, were slow-dancing nearby, kissing.
“They just looked so in love,” says Beerling.
Around 10 p.m., the first shots were fired in a series of events that would end with 58 people dead and more than 500 injured in the U.S.’s most fatal shooting.
“I thought I heard what sounded like firecrackers in the crowd in front of me,” says Beerling. “It did startle me. I did jump a little. But I wasn’t too concerned.”
The next shots sounded different.
“There was pow-pow-pow and then kind of nothing. We were starting to get back into the music and then another pow-pow,” says Beerling. “That’s when the other shots came. That is a sound that I’ll never forget and it didn’t sound anything like I would have expected. It was a popping sound basically but much more different than the first few and much farther away.”
The group was laid out on the ground, arms over their heads. The man, who moments before had been sharing a romantic moment with his wife, had them on the ground.
He said he’d been in Iraq and knew the sound of bullets.
“They’re not whistling yet,” he’d said. “Which means they’re not close.”
“He was trying to comfort us,” says Beerling.
When a break in the shots didn’t come, the group made a run for it. They quickly got separated.
Beerling could see Bobbi and Quinlan disappear ahead. She lost track of her friends.
Then Dawn caught up with her and grabbed her by the arm, her other arm already full with Reiner and said let’s go.
“Her voice didn’t crack. There was not a tear on her face,” says Beerling. “You could tell she was scared, but she was very calm.”
The trio moved towards the back of the festival grounds. A giant hole in the fencing appeared and hoards of people travelled through it.
They tripped over bags, shoes, purses and hats on the ground. People were crying, in shock around them.
They could still hear the bullets.
“It was a very terrifying moment for all of us because we didn’t know where the bullets were coming from,” says Beerling.
They ran towards the Hooters, but altered course for the MGM when a person ran out saying there was a shooter at the Hooters.
The entered a side door, illuminated by a blue light.
Beerling was worried there might be a cover charge – she didn’t know if they’d let her and her friends in.
But they did.
“That was when we finally got to breathe just a little,” she says.
But it was surreal. Beerling, Dawn and Reiner were in a casino and everything was working as normal – lights flashing, music blarring, people gambling – a typical night in Sin City that was anything but.
They made their way towards their room at Planet Hollywood, trying to stay inside the whole way. When they couldn’t anymore, the group stayed close to walls as they moved between buildings.
They picked up a women on the way, she was mute in shock. Later, they’d learn she was a security guard at the festival. She was OK and has returned to work.
They felt numb and before they arrived at their room, they already knew they their friends were safe.
“We didn’t know where they were, but we knew they were OK,” says Beerling.
Quinlan and Bobbi had got swept up in a crowd and had made it almost all the way to the airport before taking a break under a car and being offered shelter by a local family.
Around 4 a.m., the group was reunited at Planet Hollywood.
They didn’t sleep much and walked around the hotel, tuning in to the news to see the worst.
The first reports were two dead, 24 wounded.
“We thought that was a miracle,” says Beerling. “As the night went on, the body count went up.”
Back home, friends and family were worried. They texted and called and the women relayed that they were physically OK. They were safe.
The next day, they caught their flight back to B.C.
The women made their way back to Vernon and to Revelstoke together.
“The five of us, we had each other,” says Beerling.
Since being home, she says she’s spent a lot of time inside. Her two kids, in Kindergarten and Grade 3, are a good distraction, she says. “[They] take me away from some of the terrible things in this world.”
Beerling, a manager at Revelstoke Flooring, only took one day off of work.
On her first day back, one of the rolls used to carry carpet on the forklift fell to the floor. She hit the floor too, hands over her head and tears flowing.
“I love my job and I love what I do, but lately I haven’t been quite so passionate about it,” says Beerling. “It’s been really tough to care about flooring after going through something like that, but it gets better all the time and again it’s a wonderful distraction.”
She says a lot of wonderful people from the community have come in to let her know they’re happy she’s home.
“I think pretty much anytime we saw anyone we knew for the next week, we were all pretty much in tears, but it got easier in time.”
When times get tough, the women have each other to count on.
“There’s no better person to talk to than any one of the five of us,” says Beerling. “We all went through the same thing but we’re all coping with it very differently, but what’s important is that we’re all coping and we’re all very connected right now.”
She says that every day she gets a text from at least one of the women just checking in.
Beerling says she’s thinking of getting another tattoo, something to remember.
“I didn’t know any of them, but I don’t want to forget them,” she says of the victims.
She already has a shark on her hip from when she went swimming with the sharks in Hawaii with her husband after they got married, and a dolphin on her back from when she was 16 and her mom said yes.
“It’s not really to remember what I went through, it’s more like something to remember what I lived through,” says Beerling. “It’s kind of my way to remember the people that didn’t make it.”
She doesn’t know what the tattoo will be yet, but thinks it will likely cover up the dolphin.
Beerling may also be returning to Las Vegas in January for a flooring convention.
She says she would go if her boss wanted to and would light a candle in memory.
With badminton season starting, and friends and family supporting, Beerling’s life is on its path to a return to normal every day.
Says Beerling, “Every day gets a little bit better.”