A bartender who was working at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on Sunday night is sharing the heartbreaking experience she endured as the deadliest mass shooting in American history unfolded around her. When the flurry of bullets finally stopped, 59 people had been killed and more than 520 were wounded, authorities said. Two of the men who perished in the attack died as Heather Gooze, who had been tending bar and enjoying the music before the gunfire erupted, held their hands.
“We were having a blast,” she told PEOPLE magazine in an interview. “But then all of a sudden there were people running through the bar and we couldn’t understand why.” The bar where Gooze, 43, had been working that night was near the exit to the venue, so frantic concertgoers were running through there to escape the gunfire. But Gooze did the opposite. Instead of fleeing, she stayed, hoping to help as many people as she could. “Something wouldn’t let me run. Everybody was running out the door, and something wouldn’t let me go,” Gooze said during an appearance on CNN.
“I saw a lot of deceased people,” she recalled about the scene of carnage around her. Gooze also encountered several mortally wounded people. One man whom she helped was being carried by another good Samaritan and suffering from a major head wound.
“He told me to come over and asked me to hold this guy’s jacket, put my hand on the back of his head and hold as much pressure on it as possible,” she told PEOPLE. “I could literally feel the bullet hole in the back of his head. There was blood everywhere.” Moments later, she felt him stop breathing. The wounded man was then whisked into a car and driven away, but Gooze thinks he didn’t make it.
Moments later, a wounded man was being carried on a ladder, used as a makeshift stretcher, by three men. He’d been shot in the abdomen. She reached out and held his hand. “The fingers kind of squeezed, and then just stopped,” she recalled in an interview with ABC News. Fighting back tears, she added, “You don’t have to be a doctor to know …”
The man, she later found out, was Jordan McIldoon of Canada (there are conflicting reports about his age; some reported that he was 23, others that he was 25). Facebook push alerts kept appearing on the screen of his phone as friends and family checked in to see if he was OK.
Finally, McIldoon’s mother called, and Gooze answered. His mother told Gooze that he’d gone to the concert with his girlfriend, Amber, who escaped unharmed. But Amber didn’t know about McIldoon’s fate until she placed a call to his cellphone, which Gooze answered. “She said, ‘Is he hurt?’” Gooze said. “And I said, yes. And she said, ‘Be honest with me, tell me, is he OK?’ And I said, no. He’s passed away. He’s dead. I said, ‘I don’t want to be the one to tell you this but he didn’t make it.’” Gooze recalls Amber then saying, “No, that can’t be true. He’s the love of my life. Are you sure?” Gooze told CBS News, “I said yes.”
Gooze then promised Amber that she wouldn’t leave McIldoon’s body until Amber was able to arrive to be with him. She called and made the same promise to his mother, who told Gooze all about her son. “I wouldn’t leave him or go anywhere until I could make sure that they knew where he was and what was going on,” Gooze said. “I didn’t want him to be a John Doe. I just sat with him,” until about 3:30 in the morning Gooze told CNN. “I would like to think, if it was me, somebody wouldn’t let me sit there alone.”
Below, watch Gooze’s full interview with CBS News.