By Greg Price
The ‘moment’ hasn’t come yet for Las Vegas mass shooting victim and Taberite Martin Sorensen.
It may still come, it may never. Survivors of the tragedy earlier this month that saw a gunman kill 58 people and injure another 489 as he opened fire from his 32nd floor Mandalay Bay hotel room into a crowd of 22,000 people attending a country music concert, will react each in their own way.
There is no textbook for this, no ‘right’ or wrong’ way to handle the raw emotion the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in U.S. history is sure to weigh on the psyche of those involved.
“I actually have nothing. I don’t have any feelings one way or another. I haven’t broken down. It doesn’t faze me for some reason and I’m not sure I actually like that,” said Sorensen in his interview with The Times, less than a week after the incident. “I would prefer maybe some sort of reaction. Maybe I’m just numb and I have to wait for it to happen. I’m kind of waiting for a breakdown because I was really numb that first day. You would expect some sort of reaction, you would expect something. I’m concerned it will come out at some point.”
Sorensen travels to Las Vegas twice a year with his wife and another couple (Ron and Carol Egeland). A fairly ‘newby’ to Vegas given his age, it is a vacation they quickly discovered they enjoyed.
“My first trip to Las Vegas was six years ago, my wife never wanted to go. But our friends wanted to go so it became a bi-annual trip,” said Sorensen of the couples trip.
Spending 10-days a trip down in Las Vegas as part of a time share just off the strip, this vacation had Sorensen and his wife Joanne and their friends attending the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival with headliner Jason Aldean.
An outdoor concert/festival in a vacant lot beside the Mandalay Bay Hotel, Sorensen was at the third and final day of the concert. Being concert goers that like to be fully immersed in a concert experience, the four made their way to the front of the stage as much as they could as opposed to seeing it on a big screen in the back.
As the concert was finishing up, Aldean was playing for approximately 30 minutes when the Taberite heard from his right, what he thought were firecrackers, as he was packed shoulder to shoulder with other concert goers with limited sight lines.
“It really sounded like a string of firecrackers with a set amount, like 20 or 30…pop, pop, pop and then it was done, it stopped” said Sorensen. “I’m thinking to myself ‘what an asshole, you are just trying to scare people, it’s not funny in a crowd like this’.”
No one really reacted to the first burst according to Sorensen with what he saw in his area. Everyone was still standing and the moment in time was frozen as people continued to listen to the music until the next burst of gunfire. Moments later, another firecracker sound emerges where eventually the surrounding crowd started to duck down.
“It was then or the next one (gunfire burst) that there was a gentleman laying at my feet, I was hunkered down and he wasn’t looking so good. He had some tiny speckles of blood on his neck,” said Sorensen.
Kneeling over the man, Sorensen lifted up his shirt to discover a gunshot wound in his abdomen. A fellow concert goer handed the Taberite a folded up T-shirt to apply to the victim’s wound. Bullets continue to fly in the area where screams are commonplace. With little room to move, Sorensen is laying across the person he is tending to and his wife is laying across the man’s wife and praying.
The shooting stops once again where Sorensen for but a brief moment, thought the carnage was over from the multiple volleys of gunfire, as he continued to put pressure on the man’s wound with his left hand. He checked the man’s back to see if there has been an exit wound in which it is discovered the bullet had not passed through. The man mutters he is not feeling well, he is feeling faint, so Sorensen rolled him on his side.
“The shooting stopped for what felt like a minute, but it was just a short pause. The shooting starts again and we all duck down again. Actually, at this point, I’m starting to get angry,” said Sorensen, adding after the fourth or fifth volley he is wondering why security can’t shoot the perpetrator, having no idea where the gunfire is coming from in the packed venue in all the confusion, assuming the shooter is on the ground level somewhere. “I don’t think I understood the severity of the incident at the time, I just knew this guy needed help.”
It was soon after that Martin himself would require help. Yelling to anyone within earshot that the person he was tending to needed medical assistance, Sorensen waved his right arm in the air trying to track down help when he was struck by gunfire, just above the elbow while also getting shrapnel in his leg.
“My arm was just bleeding, it was just gushing blood,” said Sorensen.
Struggling to take his belt off with his good arm, Sorensen’s wife did the same with her belt as the two tried to make a makeshift tourniquet to control the blood flow of the wound.
A fellow concert fan that the Taberite refers to as ‘Joe’ aided with putting the tourniquet on as the group decided to run towards the stage where there was more shelter by the barricade fences that Sorensen struggled himself over with a push by Joe. As he landed on the ground, he saw another female gunshot victim beside him. Still scared that the area is too exposed, another young man and Joe help drag Sorensen to an inlet near the stage, getting dragged another 30 feet.
Beginning to feel a lot more worse for wear at this point with blood loss, Sorensen knew it was they themselves that would need to seek medical assistance and make their way to outside the venue, going east away from Vegas Boulevard and then north. The group came across a driver in a truck with his tailgate down where the Taberite was loaded into the vehicle by Joe who continues to tend to his wound alongside his wife. The back of the truck serves as a makeshift infirmary for the wounded as four other gunshot victims are crammed into the area along with their saviors as well.
“We started driving, the problem is, no one knew where the hospital was. We drove in a general direction and at some point, another car drives up and could obviously tell we were in need of help, who knew where the hospital was,” said Sorensen.
Although still early, victims of the mass shooting were already starting to fill the emergency room at Desert Springs Hospital. CPR is being done on some people, where the Taberite is eventually tended to that night with an IV, CT scan, X-rays of the elbow, pain killers, bandages and numerous stitches. While Sorensen suffered minor nerve damage in which he is expected to fully recover, luckily the entry wound caused no structural damage to the elbow itself as Martin was released in the early morning.
Separated in the mayhem, the couple they traveled with (Ron and Carol Egeland) and their daughter and her boyfriend were also at the event.
“Our first issue was we were just trying to find our friends. We wanted to know they were all right and it took us awhile because of cell phone problems because of the huge volume of phone use, we couldn’t get through. We eventually got through and they found out we are OK and they said they were OK,” said Sorensen. “It was about 10:30-10:45 p.m. at the time when we were making our way to the hospital and we are calling right away, calling our parents and our children, brothers and sisters, immediate family. People knew we are down there at the concert with our Facebooking. You want them to know from you that you are OK, you don’t want them waking up the next day reading about the incident and not knowing what’s going on.”
Although that night of terror on Oct. 1 will forever be etched in the history books in the United States, Sorensen hopes it will be the victims and heroes that are remembered most.
“You are seeing so many videos and stories of people helping people doing the best they could under the circumstances. Average everyday people helping each other,” said Sorensen.
Sorensen is adamant that it is not the perpetrator that is remembered as the days pass. Out of respect for Sorensen’s wishes, The Times has chosen not to print the name of the gunman nor add him into the death toll with his self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, of the worst mass shooting by an individual in United States history.
“He doesn’t deserve to be in the same group as the rest of the victims. Nobody cares. In my opinion, 58 people died that night,” said Sorensen as one man’s actions should not be glorified. “Nobody cares about him and nobody should.”
It is absolutely baffling to the Taberite the gun culture he has seen in his frequent travels to the United States. The United States is the only first-world country that views its possession of guns so casually.
“It seems to be getting worse and worse. It’s a competition of who can kill the most people. The number keeps rising. This is only the biggest one (mass shooting) until the next one, and unfortunately, there will be a next one and there will be one after that and there will be one after that,” said Sorensen. “I mean, with the 20-odd children that were killed at Sandy Hook five years ago, if that doesn’t put the country into action, I don’t think 58 adults killed will do it either.”
Sorensen understands the U.S. has its Second Amendment, entrenched in the Constitution to bear arms. But the extent the country takes that right to is ludicrous.
“Nobody needs an assault rifle. No average everyday person needs an assault rifle for security which is an excuse some people use, it is certainly not needed for hunting. It doesn’t need to be your hobby,” said Sorensen. “It saddens me that I think they are not going to solve their problem. It is frustrating that they cannot see the correlation between all the guns that they have and the gun violence that they have. It’s common sense that there is a correlation.”
Sorensen notes you have to look no further than their neighbours to the north in seeing the stark difference per capita of gun-related deaths.
“We have similar history and cultures. We are very, very similar and yet there is one glaring difference. We are nowhere near as violent as a country in gun violence because we don’t have as much gun access.” said Sorensen. “People use the excuse that criminals don’t follow the rules. This guy in Las Vegas, he wasn’t a criminal up to that point. He was a law-abiding citizen that amassed all that weaponry (24 weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition). You are only a criminal when you commit a crime. Why does one amass such an arsenal of weapons? It makes no sense and serves no purpose that amount of assault weapons other than killing as many people as you can in as short amount of time as possible. They are meant for war zones, for tactical police in having to handle something. All 22,000 people could have been armed down there and it wouldn’t have done any good. All it would have been is way more people shooting at someone too far away where no one knows where he is.”
Putting some limits on gun ownership to say a handgun or hunting rifle and Sorensen noted the fatalities and injuries would not have been even remotely close to the nearly 550 people killed or injured.
“You are not going to be able to discharge as many rounds as he did. No other weapon besides an assault rifle is going to be able to do that,” said Sorensen. “You can still have certain types of weapons and not infringe on the Second Amendment, it just can’t be open ended.”
As of the interview, Sorensen said he is still going to go on a planned trip to Las Vegas in January where his wife bought him Oilers tickets against the Golden Knights for a NHL game.
“You don’t want to change your life. You should be able to live your life the way you want to live it,” said Sorensen.
That life the Taberite is living he is thankful for with the aid of a stranger in Joe who he has become friends with, being able to track him down through texts after the two were separated that fateful night and day.
“He was in a group of 30 and two of them were shot. I’m assuming Joe left his group to help as he said he saw me get shot. He left his group to come to my aid and stayed with me all the way to the hospital. It must of been tough for him to leave his situation not knowing if they were all OK, leaving his family and friends to make sure a complete stranger was OK,” said Sorensen. “I’d like to thank Joe and the driver of that truck and the hospital staff who did a hell of a job.”