Heartbroken country newcomer Dylan Schneider is describing the chaos that broke out when a gunman opened fire on concertgoers from the window of a Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino room in Las Vegas on Oct. 1.
“It was 12 hours of horror, helplessness and mystery,” the Indiana native tells Rare Country of his experience, shortly after reuniting with his family back home.
Dylan was one of the artists on the bill at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the night of the mass shooting, which claimed the lives of 59 concertgoers and injured more than 500 others. He took the stage at 4:20 p.m., just hours before he heard gunshots.
“It was a good crowd out there,” he explains of the atmosphere during his afternoon slot. “A lot of people having fun.”
With no way to know what would happen that night, Dylan chose to stay and watch a few performances after his show. He left his cell phone backstage to charge while watching headliner Jason Aldean’s performance from the VIP section. After listening to two of Jason’s songs, he decided to go grab his phone, but was stopped by a distracting popping noise.
“I thought it was firecrackers or fireworks. [But when I took] two or three steps, it happened again, and then I realized it wasn’t,” he tells Rare Country. “I immediately turned around and ran. I got split up from one of my band members, but my manager, Joey, stayed with me, and we crawled under these bleachers that were next to us. We sat under those for two or three minutes.”
Dylan kept looking over at his manager and asking what they should do next. “I said that, like, over a hundred times,” he recalls. “It was panic. Nobody knew what to do.”
Without a plan, Dylan and his manager decided to run across the street to the Tropicana Hotel and Casino, where more people were taking cover. Once there, he kicked a staff room door open, and stayed there until they were able to move to a better location. Even though Dylan felt unsafe, he collected himself, and began helping strangers who were in panic.
“I went up to so many people and tried to tell them that everything was okay,” he says. “I was giving people water to try to keep them as cool and as calm as possible.”
Dylan also recognized humanity rising in a time of terror.
“It’s sad that something like this has to happen for people to come together and actually be caring, but it did. It happened,” he says. “It was cool to just see complete strangers being there for each other, coming up and holding onto people or hugging people. You don’t see that very often.”