After Sunday night’s mass shooting overtook the glitz of the Las Vegas Strip and claimed a record of at least 59 lives, a sense of disquiet washed over Cal State Fullerton the next day.
And it’s not just because the university has seen a similar tragedy.
Although the nation’s latest gun-related massacre occurred more than 250 miles from campus, it still found its way to the Titan community.
“I’ve never felt fear like that in my life,” said CSUF second-year biology major Kylie Panno in a text message.
Panno and her sister were among the crowd enjoying the Route 91 Harvest festival when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, sprayed rapid-fire bullets into the crowd of festivalgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
She said the crowd initially thought nothing of what sounded like fireworks, but then she saw people run.
“I grabbed my sister and we just started running and then it became rapid gunfire,” Panno said. “It felt like we were at war.”
Panno said she couldn’t tell whether the people dropping around her were tripping or getting shot, as she and her sister lost sight of each other for a brief moment in the chaos. After reuniting, they ran to the nearby Tropicana Las Vegas Casino Hotel Resort for safety. There, Panno said a hotel worker gestured them into a dark and cramped crawl space above a hotel kitchen area, where they hid for hours until deciding it was safe to leave.
“The hardest part was that we weren’t with our parents,” Panno said. “You never think that it would happen to you until it does. We literally had to run for our lives.”
University Police Capt. Scot Willey said that a CSUF officer was at the concert hours before the massacre unfolded. Willey did not give the officer’s name but divulged that he is currently training the university’s first bomb-sniffing dog.
“He unfortunately did have some friends there that were affected by it,” Willey said. “They weren’t killed, but they were seriously injured.”
Willey acknowledged the wide reach of the massacre’s shockwaves.
“It really hit a lot of us,” Willey said. “There are so many people on campus like you and me and others who had friends and family that were all there.”
CSUF AdClub tweeted at 12:04 p.m. Monday that some of its members had returned home safe after spending time in Las Vegas.
We’re relieved our board members in Vegas this weekend are home safe ??Our hearts go out to the victims and families that are mourning today
— CSUF AdClub (@csufadclub) October 2, 2017
The CSUF Delta Chi fraternity said two of its brothers were also in attendance at the festival, and are safe as well. “Our hearts go out to the victims & those affected,” the fraternity tweeted at 1:46 p.m. Monday.
Today we are thankful that 2 of our brothers who attended the concert in Vegas are safe. Our hearts go out to the victims &those effected??? pic.twitter.com/xFnBEgNx7g
— Delta Chi Fullerton (@CSUFDeltaChi) October 2, 2017
CSUF President Mildred García reacted Monday to the massacre in a number of ways.
“It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that members of both the Titan and CSU families were present at the concert in Las Vegas last night at which many innocent people were killed and wounded by a senseless act of violence,” said García’s statement read. “Facts are still being gathered, and colleagues across our campus are working with the Chancellor’s Office to determine the welfare of those from Cal State Fullerton and the CSU who were at the concert.”
García also called for a moment of silence at Monday night’s LGBTQ History Month Reception in the Fullerton Arboretum.
Chief Communications Officer Jeff Cook said in an email that he did not believe any members of the CSUF community were on official university business when they were in Las Vegas.
“We do know that members of our community were at the event,” Cook said. “We are still assessing how they have been individually affected.”
In honor of the victims, CSUF flew its flags in front of Langsdorf Hall at half-mast during the day.
Meghan Kliewer, Megan Maxey and Jason Rochlin contributed to this report.