Olympic medalist Sandi Morris relives Sunday night's horror in Las Vegas
Sandi Morris turned on her phone to check Twitter to try to figure out what was happening. The Luxor Hotel & Casino just announced it was being put on lockdown due to an emergency situation.
She initially thought it was part of the show, perhaps part of a grand finale. Morris, an Olympic silver medalist pole vaulter, had been with her boyfriend, Tyrone Smith, an Olympic long jumper from Bermuda, watching the "Blue Man Group" perform at the hotel's theater on Sunday in Las Vegas.
The show had ended at around 11, and she, Smith and the hundreds of others were sheltered in place at the Luxor. Directly next door, a gunman was shooting concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest festival from his hotel room window at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
She didn't know at the time how devastating the massacre would be: 58 people dead and nearly 500 injured, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. But quickly, as she desperately refreshed her social media feeds, she understood what was unfolding.
"It became clear: This is real," she said.
At that moment, they were trying to figure out if they were safe and if the shooter had been stopped. The Luxor's staff distributed unused bananas that were originally props for the show, water and blankets to the crowd in hopes of keeping people calm.
No matter their fears, Morris, Smith and everyone in attendance had no choice but to sit and wait for updates. After about three hours of remaining in their seats, they were finally allowed to use the bathroom across the hallway from the theater. Women were permitted to go in groups of six, and Morris went.
"We were told to make sure to leave 10 feet in between you and the woman in front of you," Morris said. "The cops told us it was safer this way because it's much more difficult to shoot a group of people when you're walking far apart. They told us it was secure in the building at that time but I couldn't help looking up at the balconies above us and searching for a sniper."
Just before 5 a.m., nearly six hours after being first put on lockdown, they were released. Told there were no cabs or Ubers available, they started the long walk back to their hotel, about a mile and a half away. With the bright lights and constant noise of Las Vegas replaced by blue police lights, blank, stunned faces, and an unnerving calm, Morris described it as "apocalyptic" and "surreal."
"It was so quiet, eerily quiet," she said. "It was like a ghost town. We were walking down the strip, and there was no partying or even cars, just ghost-faced people quietly walking."
Once back at their hotel room, Morris tried to respond to all the messages and texts she had on her phone from concerned family members, friends and fans. As of Wednesday, she still had more than 40 unread text messages. She posted a video shortly after getting back on her social media accounts about the night, in hopes of quickly reaching everyone who was worried about her.
She left Las Vegas on Monday afternoon and still hasn't fully processed the events of Sunday night. "It was so tough to absorb that as we were sitting inside this building, enjoying a show, people -- not even 400 meters from where we were sitting -- were being shot and killed," she said. "The fact that it was going on for so long and we had no idea is just really scary."
And she knows just how lucky she is to be unharmed, and how the night could have ended much differently for her.
"I'm a huge country music fan, we just didn't know about the concert somehow," she said. "I guarantee had I known about that concert, I would have convinced everyone in the group to go with me to it. But just being that close to the concert, it hit home how delicate life really is and how you're not always as a safe as you think you are."