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Dylan Schneider on Surviving Las Vegas Shooting: 'If You Stop Going to Shows and Living, You Let the Terrorists Win'

las vegas shooting 2017
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Police form a perimeter around the road leading to the Mandalay Hotel in Las Vegas on Oct. 2, 2017. 

The attack during Las Vegas' Route 91 Harvest Festival on Oct. 1 will leave a permanent imprint on the artists and fans present at the music festival when a gunman opened fire and took 59 lives. Country newcomer Dylan Schneider, one of the festival's performers, says he will never forget the events of that evening in Nevada -- and how close things came to having another outcome.

“We were over at the right side off just the stage, up at the front, and we were watching Jason [Aldean],” Schneider recalled. “Before we had gone out there, I had plugged my phone up to charge at the VIP area, and was letting it charge. We were listening to songs, and a couple came on that I liked. Joey, my manager and I turned around, and started walking backstage. At this point, we were facing toward the hotel." And then the unthinkable happened.

“We had taken a couple of steps, and then we heard the first shots," Schneider said. "Honestly, at first, we thought it sounded like fireworks going off. We took two or three more steps, and then more shots. At that point, I turned around -- we were with my band and my crew -- and I just ran and started jumping over the barricades. Joey was following me, and he was the only person that I didn’t get separated from. Jason turned around, and ran off the stage. When he stopped in the middle of the song, that was the point that everybody panicked and hit the ground. People were screaming and yelling. When we jumped past the barricades, we got under the bleachers. We were hiding under there, and the gunshots kept going off.

"At the time, nobody knew the situation, or where the shots were coming from. I was convinced that people on foot had an advantage leaving the venue, and there were multiple shooters. In that situation, we had no idea what to do. I looked at Joey, and asked him what he thought we should do -- do we run out or do we stay put? I thought it was only a matter of time before they came up the bleachers and started spraying under them, because they knew that a lot of people were under there. So, we went over to the side of them, and the security guards waved us to the right, telling us ‘Just run this way. Run this way,'” he recalled. So they made their escape from the scene.

“We just took off and didn’t slow down a bit until we got across the street over at the Tropicana. People were laid out in the hallways, and everybody was freaking out -- understandably. I remember that we ran up to these doors, and said ‘We can’t be here. There’s too much attention being drawn to us in this spot.’ So, we turned around, and I start grabbing at all of these janitor closet doors just to get out of the way. They were all locked, so I just went up to one, and kicked it open, and we went aside. I was surprised that nobody else had followed us.

"There were two workers in there, but we were the only two that had went into the room. We stayed in there for about an hour or so. While we were in there, I got in touch with all the band members and our crew, and found out they were ok and over at the MGM Grand. We also talked to some friends and family, and took the time to collect ourselves. Eventually, they started bringing some more people in there straight in from the craziness. There were a lot of people crying and screaming. At that point, I was hoping they would get more people in here, so they would be safe. I walked around and tried to keep people calm, telling them that I’d been in the room for an hour, and nothing has happened. We were probably in the room for about two hours, and then got moved to this big convention center. They brought in all the housekeeping stuff they could get – blankets and everything. I don’t think we heard what the actual situation was for about four or five hours.”

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As the evening progressed, the rumors began to swirl around the Strip. “We were hearing everything, like the shooter went to Caesars Palace, and then heard there was actually a shooter in the Tropicana, and also a bomb in a car driving down the Strip. I don’t know where any of that came from, because none of it was true. I ended up talking to my parents, and figured out the situation,” he says. “We actually didn’t leave the Tropicana until 10 a.m. -- about twelve hours.”

Schneider realizes that had he plugged in his charger just a few minutes later, he might not be living to tell the tale. “When the shots started, it sounded like the shots had started in that corner where the backstage artists lounge was -- where my phone was plugged in. The shooting sounded like it had started right there. It’s so crazy about the timing, and everything. You just never know. A few seconds one way or another could be life or death. But, that was the only time that I truly felt that I was running for my life. It’s a scary thing to think about.”

While Schneider and his manager were staying put under the bleachers, the authorities and first responders were resorting to drastic measures to get inside to save lives. “What a lot of people did was just drive their automobiles through the fences, and let people get out. The first responders, SWAT teams, police, everything just drove straight through it.”

Having had a few days to reflect on the tragedy, Schneider says that he considers himself blessed to be able to talk about his experience. “I’m very lucky that my camp made it out ok. We’re all lucky, and I saw so many good people that night who made it through, which made me so happy to see that. I’m grateful for the doctors that are helping people recover that were hurt. Those people are in my prayers, as are the families of those who weren’t so lucky and passed away. That’s really the hardest part. I’m just trying to keep my head on the good side of things, and think about the people who made it out alive, and thankful for everyone who came in and saved as many people as possible.”

The singer says that he won’t be taking life for granted anymore in the future – but has no plans to step away from the stage. In fact, this weekend, he will be back on stage at an outdoor festival – this time in Bristol, Tennessee. “It’s scary, and it would scare anybody,” he admits. “But, if you stop going to shows and living, you let the terrorists win. You let them take over your good time. I don’t think that any of us are going to be afraid to step back up and get on the stage. We can’t let them win.”


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