Days after the deadliest shooting in U.S. history that left 58 dead and wounding 515, Crystal Alaniz is dealing with her emotional scars by staying close to her faith, family and friends.
The single mother was looking forward to house-warming parties and spending time with her 11-year-old daughter. Earlier this year, she was excited to qualify for a home loan and searched for a house.
Some of Alaniz’s dreams came true: The 32-year-old Alaniz found a home in north Fresno, a small, renovated home she shares with daughter, Kayleigh.
Last week, she found herself running for her life on a Las Vegas street not far from the Mandalay Bay Hotel where shots rained down on her and about 22,000 who were attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival music festival.
The three-day country music concert featured Jason Aldean, one of Alaniz’s favorite musicians.
Alaniz paid a guard $20 to allow her to use the VIP restrooms nearby. Upon her return she found herself near stage left because she was unable to get back to her spot.
A woman who was standing next to her before Alaniz went to the restroom was among those murdered.
As Alaniz frantically ran from the gunfire, she recorded a message for her daughter: “Oh my God, we’re getting shot. Kayleigh, I love you!”
She nearly froze in her steps before her guardian angel came by.
“He asked me if I was alone: I said, ‘Yes.’ He grabbed my hand tight and we ran. He said if I was a believer, I said, ‘Yes.’ He said lets pray right now,” she recalls.
“I was like crying and crying. I was saying ‘I want to go home. I want to go home.’ He said, ‘We’re going to get you there. We’re both going to go home.’ And he kept calm. That’s why I say, he was my angel.”
Andrew Shami, a Fresno State graduate living in Ventura, ran with Crystal to the Monte Carlo Hotel. Crystal said his brother helped the victims carry at least one wounded woman to safety.
Crystal can replay the moments in her mind.
The sparks from ricocheting bullets against the asphalt.
The blood on the street.
And the euphoria of people trying to escape the barrage of automatic gun fire by Stephen Paddock from his perch on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay on the evening of Oct. 1.
Alaniz remembers that people were trying to run around the barricades that were set up for the concert.
On the outside, Crystal appears emotionally OK; but she admits that she will seek counseling. She’s taken a leave of absence from her job as a state employee, and constantly has company over because she fears being alone. The sound of dropping ice from the ice maker on the refrigerator has startled her.
Kayleigh shares visitation time with her father.
Crystal cherishes a card that her daughter gave her. She gets emotional and tears up each time she reads it:
“There’s an angel watching over you to keep you safe and always light your way. You’re someone very special to me. More than words can say. Dear, Mommy, I’m so glad you’re safe. God protects you and our family each and every day. I’m so glad that you’re safe, I don’t know what I would do without you.”
Crystal said she’ll always hold the card.
“She’s like my kid’s aunt, like a sister to me. My daughter said ‘Mom, tell her not to cry no more.’ We’ll hold each other a little tighter,” said Vanessa Pinegar, who has known Crystal for 17 years.
“She’s like my sister. We cry. I’m thankful I’m able to be here. We cry a lot,” said Crystal, “It’s so sad for these families. They shouldn’t have to bury their loved ones.”
Amid all the emotion and news of the victims and scores fighting for their lives, Crystal said she and Shami prayed for their attacker during their escape.
“He said ‘Let’s pray for the enemy. Let’s pray that God forgives him, and that He gets a hold of him.’
“Just hearing her say that, she’s a better person than me. I think that I would hold on to that anger a little longer,” added Pinegar.
Selma resident, Sylvia Alaniz, Crystal’s mother, has been at her daughter’s side.
“All I did was pray. She didn’t think she was going to get out of it. The way she saw everybody distraught and running back and forth, she thought that was her time,” said Sylvia.
A close friend contacted Sylvia as the event unfolded on television and told her to watch the news.
“She was out of breath, but wanted me to know what was going on. I heard people screaming. I heard people saying ‘I got shot’ and (Crystal) had said, ‘They’re shooting at us,’” said Sylvia.
Crystal has kept the television away from her daughter. “We are going to have to sit down as mother and father and make her aware as to what’s going on,” said Crystal.
Crystal traveled to Las Vegas for the concert with several friends. They were scheduled to stay at the Cosmopolitan, but after the shooting, they ran to the Monte Carlo, where a family allowed her and Shami to spend the night with other survivors.
Crystal has cancelled a scheduled Oct. 20. trip to Las Vegas.