October 1st will always be a hard day for Ginny Winslow.
A marketing professional living in South Seattle, 16 years ago, her mom passed away on this day. And then, on October 1st one year ago, Winslow was at Route 91 Harvest, the now infamous country music festival in Las Vegas, when Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old real estate investor, opened fire onto roughly 22,000 concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
When the gunfire started that night, Winslow, who was working a booth at the festival, crouched under a stage, pulling chairs, crates, and boxes over her body to hide from the gunfire. During a pause in the shooting, when Paddock was stopping to reload, she and her friend Caslin made a run for it. She wrote about what happened:
We ran crouched, Mandalay Bay looming over us, no idea that was where the shots were coming from. I lost Caslin for a moment, but she leapt over a barrier and we found each other near the exit closest to Mandalay Bay.
Again, no thought but instinct. A bus was in front of us, doors open, people lying on the floor inside.
We climbed on top of them, on top of a woman bleeding from her leg. Something about a tourniquet, she didn’t know if she was shot, but her hip was broken, trampled. I couldn't hear and everyone was shouting at the driver to please go. Get us out.
My feet, in sandals, became slick with blood and oil from the bus. I don’t know.
Winslow and her friend both survived, but many others did not. In just ten minutes of gunfire, 58 people died by Stephen Paddock's hand, including Paddock himself. It was the most deadly mass shooting in modern American history.
I caught up with Winslow on the one-year anniversary while she was at home watching Star Trek. "I'm just trying to distract myself," she told me. "Be kind to myself, hang out, watch TV, try not to dwell."
It's a difficult day to ignore. Winslow spent the night after the shooting at her friend's house, but the next day, she had to go back to the scene of the crime. "My hotel was right next to the venue," she said. "Having to go back to that, seeing the broken windows. The entirety of Vegas was just silent. It was very strange."
This event has changed Winslow's life in subtle ways. She developed a fear of flying ("The plane ride home was just awful," she told me). She's also fearful of loud noises, like fireworks and gunshots, and is less comfortable in crowds than she was before. She's been to another music festival since then, Bonnaroo, and during Eminem's set, a song with gunshots sent her to the floor, briefly panicked that it was happening again.
Writing about the experience was therapeutic for Winslow, but soon after she began writing, she started getting threats. "A man got a hold of my phone number and started texting me and saying I was never in any danger and that I was looking for attention," she said. "It escalated to him telling me that I should have been riddled by bullets. I thought that was funny—like, you think I wasn't in danger but now you're telling me you hope I get murdered."
A year later, Winslow is struck by just how little has changed. "I've seen headlines calling this the 'forgotten American tragedy' and it's incredibly upsetting to see that. But there was Parkland and that shooting in the church, and every time it happens, it forces us all to live through everything all over again. We can go through life and be fine but then it's just like, how, after all of that, has nothing changed?"
Winslow doesn't know how to stop this cycle, but, she says, there are things we can do. "If you take away things like bump stocks or the weapons that cause the most destruction, you can save lives."
"What's happening is a sickness," she continues. "We are sick right now. People are taking their own lives along with everyone else's. There is this anger there that is almost like, 'If I can't be happy and I can't find fulfillment, I will not only kill myself, I will destroy the things you love too.'"
This fall, Washington state voters will have a chance to vote on Initiative 1639, which will penalize gun owners who don't store their weapons properly if they are used in a crime, raise the age to purchase semi-automatic assault weapons from 18 to 21, and create enhanced background checks for semi-automatic assault weapons. It's unclear that these measures would have saved lives in Vegas, but they could here, should this pass in Washington state.
Winslow will be voting yes.