Red Deer education assistant Kirsten Jensen returned home from the horrific Las Vegas concert shooting with many ‘what ifs’ on her mind.
Jensen and her friends, Kendra Footz of Red Deer, and Abaigeal Luoma of Calgary, had just left the outdoor Route 91 Harvest festival on Sunday night before the first gunshots were heard from the concert grounds.
“I keep thinking, what if my friend’s feet didn’t hurt?” said Jensen, and they had decided to stay for singer Jason Aldean’s performance rather than heading back to their hotel?
Whenever she thinks of the 58 country music fans killed by the sniper, Jensen wonders “why them and not us?”
While thankful to be back in her supportive work environment at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, Jensen admitted, “I’m having a hard time connecting (the shooting) to real life… It’s really hard to believe we were there when this was happening…”
The three women posed for a last picture together on the grounds at 10:01 p.m. They exited the gates at 10:04 p.m. and were standing at a crosswalk when the first shots rang out at 10:08.
“We thought it was fireworks,” Jensen recalled — until police officers standing nearby said “those are gunshots.”
A man also ran by, urging them to get moving because he recognized the sound of an automatic weapon.
Jensen recalled Aldean then abruptly stopped singing, and screams started resonating from the concert grounds.
She and her friends began running towards their hotel, getting caught in a crush of people outside a casino. In the confusion, they bumped into four Americans who were headed in the opposite direction, as their hotel was close to the concert grounds.
“We said, ‘You can’t go back there. It’s not an option. You have to come with us,’” said Jensen.
The three Albertans ended up sharing their room with three women from Colorado and a man from California — and all of them quickly bonded over their shared nightmarish experience.
The next morning, the Canadians and Americans traded contact information to make sure everyone would make it home OK. Jensen remembers the California guy joking that maybe the Albertans would all be invited to his wedding someday because the emotional circumstances had brought them so close together.
Jensen feels the shooting has changed her view of the world — but not the way she lives.
As a “huge” concert fan who also loves to travel, she intends to keep doing both because, “I refuse to let somebody take away what I enjoy in life.”