WES PERRY WAS in his Las Vegas hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino when a gunman, a few rooms away, smashed his own room’s window and opened fire. Fans were gathered across the Las Vegas Strip at a country-music festival. It was Oct. 1, 2017, the final night of the Route 91 Harvest festival, and headliner Jason Aldean had just started singing his hit “When She Says Baby.” The rampage went on for 10 minutes, killing 58 people and injuring more than 850. It is considered the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
“I was near the end of the hallway and he was at the very end of the hallway,” Perry tells Rolling Stone. “I looked out the window and I could see very clearly down at the festival site — which is actually why I loved that room — and it was all dark. I had the same view as the shooter.”
When the gunfire erupted at 10:05 p.m. Pacific time, Perry was startled out of the humming silence of his hotel room, where he’d gone to rest and charge his phone after spending Sunday at the festival. To this day, the Nashville resident still needs a white-noise machine to fall asleep.
“You have to stop and realize how much it’s changed you,” says Perry, who is the director of country sponsorships at Live Nation, the promoters behind Route 91. “You may not realize day to day, in the moment, what it’s done to you, but then you look back and say, ‘Wow, my life changed because of that.’ ”
Yet five years since the massacre at Route 91, little else has, when it comes to mass shootings in the U.S. The suspect, a 64-year-old white man who took his own life by the time authorities entered his room, was identified, yet no motive was ever determined. A ban on bump stocks, the device the shooter used to transform his weapons from semi-automatic to automatic, was enacted via executive order by President Trump in 2018, but seemingly did little to curb future mass shootings using assault rifles. And the survivors, traumatized and struggling to heal — an estimated 22,000 people attended the festival’s third day — find it hard to agree upon anything. Even the official death toll is a point of fierce debate.