Imagine experiencing pure horror as you run for your life while being shot at from what feels like all directions. Imagine surviving this horrific experience only to be found unresponsive in your home just 8 days later. Imagine leaving behind a husband and a beautiful three year old daughter. This isn’t fiction. This was the story of a beautiful soul. This was Kymberley’s story.
Kymberley Suchomel was described by her friends as “sincere”, “full of joy and happiness” and “the sweetest and most genuine person.” Her friend Jaclyn Blake described Kymberley as extremely loyal and the best friend you could ask for. “She always had my back. She would defend her friends to the end. I remember one time she pointed out one of my items was copied and I didn’t make much of a fuss about it. It bothered her more than me actually. She was extremely passionate. She was also super silly and hilarious and lighthearted.”
She was known to some as a talented small shop owner and to others as a warrior when most recently, she survived the horrific shooting in Las Vegas. I had only spoken to Kymberley a few times but could tell almost immediately what a huge heart she had. She told me that she suffered from epilepsy and that it had often slowed her down. When I found out that she had been at the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas at the time of the shooting, I was shocked. As I read her words on Facebook, I wept, trying to put myself in her shoes and knowing that I wouldn’t have been able to remain that strong. I wanted to reach out to her but I never did. It’s something I’ll always regret.
“…It has been nearly 72 hours since the nightmare took place [Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas] and I am finally able to sit here & put into words my own personal account. I have attached some photos of the fun we did have. I would first like to give a huge giant thank you to both Casie Barnard & Ricky Ardito, without them I can guarantee you I wouldn’t have gotten out like I did- I would have dropped to the floor, stunned, and I would not have been able to get up. I owe them both my life.”
“Sunday morning we woke up sore & hungover from the nights before. Friday & Saturday nights were a blast- we drank too much, and fought the crowd to get as close to the stage as possible. We acted like we were in our early 20s and hitting Vegas for the first time; however, when we woke up Sunday we all were in complete agreeance that we would not be doing that again. We decided, instead, to bring in a king sized sheet & sit on the astro-turf in the way, way back & just peacefully watch the concert from our spacious sheet. We also decided to drink the morning and afternoon of, but not the evening… When we had full bellies & got our retail fix in-shopping the vendors, we headed to the main stage where we immediately sought out that back sitting area. Unfortunately, we procrastinated getting to our seats for too long, and every spot was taken. We ultimately ended up on the next fake-grass area much closer to the stage- but we still had a decent amount of space & great viewing area, so we spread out our sheet and claimed it our territory. We remember exactly where we were, because most of us (excluding myself) left to go to the bathroom & get water during the concert, so we used landmarks to be able to find each other again. I remember distinctly that one of the bars was to my left and I had to look behind me to see it- thinking maybe I should get one more beer, but I already had a full bladder & I have an irrational fear of porta-potties, so I decided against it.
We are all hanging out on this sheet, dancing our booties off, enjoying ourselves so much that we took off our boots to get even more comfortable. Casie & I were on opposite sides of our little 5-person group. I was on the far right side, and I had so much room to dance that this guy who walked by, who we called “camo man”, actually said to me “taking up a lot of real estate there, eh?” jokingly. After about 20 minutes of Jason Aldean’s set, I got this overwhelming feeling to go stand over by Casie. I can’t tell you why, but I did. The entire time I was dancing next to her I kept thinking to myself, “why? Why don’t I go back to my spacious area?? There is no room to dance over here.. I am not having a good time over here… okay, on the next song I will”. But, there wasn’t a next song.
From about 50 feet in front of us, and a little to the right, fire crackers were set off. Let me repeat that… FIRE CRACKERS WERE SET OFF. I verbally stated “some asshole just shot of fire crackers in close proximity to so many people”. I was literally pissed off. You could see Jason Aldean look to his left kind of startled by it, but he was also clearly irritated. I would say about 15 seconds later, the first volley of gunfire was released. It was a shorter volley than any of the others, and the gunfire was not as close together either. EVERYONE looked up, down, around. We thought it was more fire crackers at first, but then Ricky reached over, told us all to put our boots on, quickly. And the volley ended. Then people started to panic. The gentlemen behind me looked at me as I was putting on my boots, half laying down, and said “calm down crazy, its just fireworks, jeez”. That is when the 2nd volley went off, Ricky yelled at us all to get down, flat, & we immediately knew there was someone shooting at us. I remember getting down, but I didn’t lay flat for some reason, thinking- oh my gosh, I need to get flatter than I am now, but my body just wouldn’t let me. That was the 2nd volley. At the end of that volley ( I am still struggling to get my boots on), we turned and tried to run, but the people behind us still weren’t moving. I yelled at the lady “RUN! ITS GUNFIRE! RUUUUUUUUUNNNNN!!!” The look on her face was pure terror, but she finally dropped her stuff and turned to begin running…. But then the 3rd volley hit… and it was close. Very, very close to us. I could physically see the impact of the bullets on the astro-turf, I could feel the warmth & the passing of bullets. Once that 3rd volley was over, Casie linked her arm into mine, and we decided at that moment we weren’t stopping- we were getting the Hell out of there. And I do mean Hell. We were in literal Hell. The gentlemen that mocked me stating it was just fireworks fell to the ground, and he never got back up. The lady behind me (who was now in front of me) who was terrified as I told her to run, never got back up. I actually had to physically step over her body to run (something I am still struggling with, so please don’t attack me. I was absolutely in flight-or-fight mode). There was another person to my right who also wasn’t moving. We ran. I don’t know what direction we ran, I don’t know towards which landmark we ran. We just ran. It was at this time our group got split up. Casie & I were together. Ricky, Cassie & Mendy were together.
We were rounding some sort of corner maybe- and I looked to the right and I saw this large cowboy sitting down with his legs spread, holding a blood-soaked woman. I thought to myself “we NEED to hide”, but as I looked quickly for somewhere to go, the gunfire once again got closer and closer. We couldn’t hide because they (and I do mean THEY) were chasing us. That exact moment is when I started to really panic. That is the exact moment in which I thought this was it, I was going to die, I was never going to see my family again. So, as we are running, we approach this fence where men are throwing women over, and we ran up to it as they had knocked It down, so we were able to get out. As we crossed the threshold of the venue, my mind went straight to other mass shootings and hearing the victim’s families in my head talk about how they never got to say goodbye. I did not want this for my husband (who was at work) & my grandma (who had my daughter, Scarlett). So, at 10:07pm I called my husband franticly leaving him a voicemail- telling him that I loved him and was in the middle of a shooting & I wasn’t sure if I would make it out alive. Next, while still running, I called my grandma to tell her the exact same thing. But the gunfire wasn’t stopping this whole time. It wasn’t ceasing. It wasn’t slowing down. And It was directly behind us, following us. Bullets were coming from every direction. Behind us, in front of us, to the side of us. But I know, I just know, that there was someone chasing us. The entire time I felt this way. The farther we got from the venue, the closer the gunfire got. I kept looking back expecting to see the gunmen- and I say MEN because there was more than one person. There was more than one gun firing. 100% more than one.
As we were running, we kept changing direction, because it felt like no matter what direction we took, we were being followed. So we ended up running in a weird triangular path. The first place I remember getting to was a parking lot, and I told Casie (who was slightly in front of me) we needed to get under one of the trucks. She turned to me and started her way back to me, and that is when the gunfire got even CLOSER than ever before. It was RIGHT THERE. It was within the parking lot. Everyone around us was panicking once again. So we ditched the idea of getting underneath a vehicle, and we continued the run for our lives. If you know me, you know I am a big girl, who is out of shape, and who definitely does not run for any reason. But I can tell you I ran like I have never run before.
The 2nd place I remember going by was Hooters- which is where we met back up with the rest of our small group. We ran towards the entrance thinking we could take cover there, but as we got closer, a stampede of people ran out, terrified. We could only conclude that there was another gunman inside of that hotel. This made us even more scared- we had nowhere to go- no one to trust. At some point, we ended up at the airport & even entered the building for safety. Everyone as we entered were screaming at the staff “IS IT SAFE IN HERE?” but we weren’t getting anyone to answer us, so after running about 30 feet into the building, not getting the answers we so desperately needed, we decided it, too, wasn’t a safe spot, so we got out of there quickly and continued running.
After all this running, we were tired, sore & having to stop to cough, gag and even vomit. We ran across an intersection & us & another group of people pleaded with a limo driver to let us in and get us out of there. He was clearly confused & didn’t understand what was going on, so he didn’t let us in. Next, we ran to a taxi van & she was willing to let us in, but she told us her van only held 4 people & she wasn’t going to let the 5 of us in, so we said screw it and continued running. At one point, we ran passed a small liquor store where they so graciously gave us water bottles. We passed UNLV as well.
Some things I can’t remember exactly where we were or at what time of the night they happened. But we were running along what I am guessing was Tropicana Avenue, and this dark colored sedan drives by, slows a little, and a smaller Hispanic, dark-haired woman leans out the window, and she yells something we couldn’t understand in a clearly taunting manner. It really freaked us out, because again, we didn’t know who we could and could not trust.
I don’t remember at which time, but at some point, Ricky was reminded by Cassie that his Uncle Manny lived in Vegas. He called him, and we made a plan to meet him at a grocery store a couple miles away to get picked up. We finally made it to him, he shoved us all in his car, drove us to our hotel (we stayed off the strip), waited for us to pack (this literally took us all of 10 minutes max to do), and escorted us to the freeway to get us home. A HUGE thank you to Uncle Manny for his love, generosity & kindness.
The what-ifs still kill me. What if we hadn’t decided to be chill that night? What if we went to the same sardine-like spot we were in the two previous nights? What if we had been drinking as much as we had been Saturday night? Would we have had the reaction time to escape? What if I hadn’t had the desire to move next to Casie? Would we have been separated? There are still so many what-ifs from that night.
I have bene watching the news non-stop since I arrived back home to my family. And it just doesn’t make sense. The story that are feeding everyone doesn’t add up to our eyewitness accounts. There is something wrong with what they are saying & the evidence seems fake if you ask me. There are multiple people stating that there was a lady towards the beginning of the evening who had made her way up to the stage warning people that we were all gunna die- her and her boyfriend were escorted off the premises. Why has she not been mentioned by authorities? Every single survivor I have talked to also remembers multiple shooters, and at least one from the ground- why aren’t we being taken more seriously? Tons of things don’t add up.
I know I am forgetting a bunch of what happened, and I will edit this post to include it as I remember. I praise our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ, for surviving a horrific incident. People were dropping like flies all around me, and there is absolutely ZERO reason why I wasn’t at least struck with a bullet. I left the Route 91 Festival completely unharmed physically, besides some scrapes and super sore bones & muscles. Mentally, however, is a different story. I do okay during the day, but as soon as nightfall hits, I get super scared & anxious. I am even typing this up with butterflies in my stomach and a racing heart. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to go anywhere, ever. I can no longer be in any place with large crowds- concerts, festivals, theme parks, zoos, etc. I can no longer trust anyone around me. I can no longer close my eyes without seeing those bodies & hearing the sound of gunfire. I am ruined, as are thousands upon thousands of people. We were given wristbands to wear for the 3-day event. I can’t seem to take mine off. We went to Las Vegas for a super fun, down to Earth country concert featuring our favorite artists. We left scared, scarred, traumatized and broken. And for that, we demand answers.”-Kymberley Suchomel, October 4, 2017
“It’s been 5 days. And it’s not getting any easier. Although I’m not sure it can really be expected to get any easier.
Tonight is the first night since it happened that my husband has had to go to work. He works nights & I started really freaking out when I realized that soon I’d be alone at night. My grandmother, who had a previously scheduled trip to Washington, graciously agreed to cancel her trip so she could stay the weekend with me. It’s like I’m in elementary school again, and I need a babysitter. I hate this feeling. I hate it so much. But I hate the idea of being alone even more. “Alone”. That single word makes my heart race. Makes my stomach twist. How can a single word affect me so badly?
During the day, I can confidently say I’m alright. As alright as I can be I guess. But as soon as nightfall hits, it’s a completely different story. When the sun is out, I can see my driveway, across the street, in my backyard, everywhere. But once the sun is gone- I’m blind. I have no idea who could be hiding in my bushes. I have no idea if someone is crouching behind my car. I’m completely blind. The world outside is totally unknown. Every single noise I hear makes me jump in fear that something is about to happen. I constantly have this uneasy, butterfly feeling in my stomach. Nightfall rears its ugly head, and I’m a mess. A broken mess. As I finally turn the tv off and attempt to go to sleep, the noises I hear get louder and seemingly more frequent. I’m finding myself breathing heavy and looking around as if I’m going to need to take cover at a moment’s notice. As I lay there, I keep reliving the night over and over on repeat. However, when I do get to sleep, I’m able to sleep for a Solid 4-5 hours (usually) before I’m woken up by loud bangs and booms. I know these sounds are in my mind, but I don’t know if they will ever stop or if I’ll ever be able to wake to them and immediately not freak out.
I’m also able to eat once again. Well, kind of. My appetite is huge. I make so much food when I eat. But, as the saying goes, my eyes are bigger than my stomach. It’s almost as if I’m trying to eat to erase the constant whirlwind I feel in my stomach. No matter what I eat… veggies, meats, junk food, etc… I get sick. Each and every time. My stomach is basically attacking back when I put food into it. I get so mad when this happens, but then I get angry at myself… I mean, at least I get to be sick. When 58 (and maybe even more) people will never even have the chance to be sick again.
The most ridiculous things terrify me. At 8:30pm every night, I have an alarm that goes off to remind me to take my prescription for a pituitary tumor I have. It’s gone off every night since May. But for the last five days, when it goes off, my heart races faster than ever before. I get sweaty. I get scared. I know it’s going to go off, but I still react this way. When will it stop?! When my daughter moves too quickly, tosses one of her toys, or talks too loudly after being quiet- I get the same fast beating heart and fear. Just a few minutes ago, as I lay next to her watching her cartoons, she rolls over to give me a hug. My instant reaction was to get closer to the ground and I actually yelled at her for moving so quickly. I yelled at my three year old daughter for hugging me. What kind of mother am I to do such a mean thing to my daughter? I’m a broken mother.
When multiple people talk at the same time (ie: my daughter and my grandma), I get super anxious. I feel as though I’m drowning in their voices, and I wouldn’t be able to hear if someone is coming. And I get mean about it. Not intentionally, but I get mean.
Against everyone’s advice, all I want to do is watch the news. I want to see what they are reporting. If anyone else has passed. If people are being reunited. I want to see if they are finally taking some steps in a different direction than the supposed “one” shooter. But, on every news station I watch, they are taking about the weather, car accidents, bills going into the senate, etc. It makes me so angry. It’s an irrational anger, but I’m angry that they would have the audacity to report on anything else besides the tragedy that happened on Oct 1st. Because to me, absolutely nothing is more important. Again, I know this is irrational, but it still pisses me off to no end.
I tried to keep myself busy this morning. Started some laundry, did some work. Then, I picked up the dress I wore Sunday night. I was about to toss it in the washer, but had this overwhelming feeling not to. Instead, I held it, inspecting it not sure of what I was going to find, or even what I was looking for. Thankfully it’s a black dress, so all I really saw was a bunch of dirt. But in two spots towards the bottom, it’s a little “crusted”. You know that feeling- when you spill a thicker liquid (like ice cream) and don’t wash it immediately? That’s what it feels like. I shutter to think of what it might be. That dress never went into the wash. It’s still sitting, now nicely folded, on my dryer. As if washing it would wash out my connection to that night. In all actuality, that is what part of me wants. Part of me wants the memories gone. The experiences gone. But the other half knows that what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger in one way or another. Maybe that’s why I’m still finding myself wearing my festival wristband and never wanting to take it off.
I don’t cry as much anymore. However, some stories I read, videos I watch, and anytime I hear Jason Aldean sing, I can’t help but start crying. What makes me really break down, is my daughter. If you read my previous post, you know that I called both my husband (who I left a voicemail for) & my grandma (who was babysitting my daughter) a few minutes after the gunfire began. My grandma answered and my daughter was still awake. I’m not positive on what was happening on that other end of the call, but when I got home my baby was asleep. When she woke up, she immediately looked for me & the words she said to me were “mommy! You run from the bad guys. You okay now?” And if that doesn’t just break your heart… it’s not the only time she’s said it. She says it every day. Multiple times a day. And it crushes me. After I picked her up from school today, and got her home, was the worst. My three year old daughter, Scarlett, who was in my arms, looked directly into my eyes and said… “I’m happy you’re here mommy. Those bad guys stopped chasing you.” What do you even say to that? How do you react? I hugged her tight, tears streaming down my face, and I told her I was safe and those bad guys are gone.
I don’t really know why I’m writing this down, I literally never post on Facebook. But for some strange reason, I have an overwhelming feeling to do so. I just wish I was writing down my feelings of how much fun I had, rather than the hole this experience has left in me & the fear I’ll no doubt live with for the rest of my life.” – Kymberley Suchomel, October 7, 2017
“I’ve had a very hard time leaving my house. I’ve gone to the preschool to drop off and pick up Scarlett, but I haven’t been able to actually go anywhere. Today, I overcame my fear, and I went to lunch with Casie & then went and got this gorgeous piece. If only for a couple hours, I was able to focus on the pain caused by a tattoo gun & forget the pain (both emotional and physical) caused by the horrific event that took place on Sunday.” –Kymberley Suchomel, October 7, 2017
“Its unbelievable to see the evidence of those shot around us splattered on the boots that carried me to safety.
At 10:05 PM my group of friends heard what we thought was firecrackers as Jason Aldean was finishing up “Any Ol’ Barstool”, we chalked it up to just a drunk idiot sneaking them past security and continued to sing and dance. Seconds later he started “When She Says Baby” and that’s when things changed.
I’ll never forget the words he sang as Ricky realized it was automatic gun fire and told us to get down. “Some days it’s tough just gettin’ up, Throwin’ on these boots and makin’ that climb”.
The lives of myself, my friends, and so many others were changed forever exactly one week ago today. While I made it out physically unharmed, I will have mental and emotional scars forever.
Strength is what we gain from the madness we survive. I will never forget October 1st, 2017.” -Kymberley Suchomel, October 8, 2017
Kymberley was found unresponsive in her home the following morning by her Grandma. The news quickly spread throughout the small shop community, breaking countless hearts along the way. She was loved by so many and will be missed by even more. When I heard the news, I quickly reached out to her friend Jaclyn to ask if I could share her story. Kymberley had a story to tell and she wanted the world to hear it. She just ran out of time before she was able to get to the happy ending. Shouldn’t every story have a happy ending? Kymberley’s story ended way too soon and as a Mother, a wife and a small shop owner myself, I want to make sure that we all remember this courageous woman. That we read her words and understand that things have to change. NOW. No one should ever have to go through something this horrific ever again. Is this the world we want our kids to grow up in? I’m sure if Kymberley was still with us, her answer would be NO. Let’s help spread her message.
Kymberley’s friends have put together a couple of ways for you to help out both her husband and her young daughter. First, an auction on Facebook [this has since closed]. All proceeds were donated directly to the family to help with any costs that may come up: funeral, memorial service, time off of work for her husband to grieve, food, etc. If you want to help, you may donate directly to the family via YouCaring or by clicking on the “Donate Now” button below. Anything you can donate is so appreciated. Please read the follow up post here and help us take down these false articles!
Heather is the Mom of three and a marketing professional. She enjoys graphic design, writing, photography and making new memories with her family.