Connect-Bridgeport's 2017 Top Feature Stories: #7

By Jeff Toquinto on December 31, 2017 via

Editor's Note: On Oct. 1, a mass shooting took place in Las Vegas, leaving 58 people dead and 546 injured. Bridgeport native Kash Kiefer was among the thousands of individuals attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival, where the shooting took place. This Oct. 7 ToquiNotes blog by Jeff Toquinto features an interview with Kiefer, who shares just how grateful he feels to be alive. Read the blog, which has been named one of Connect-Bridgeport's top feature stories of the year, below. 
"ToquiNotes: From Day of Fun to Day of Chaos in Vegas, BHS Alum Kash Kiefer Grateful to be Alive"
Kash Kiefer recalled the feeling; a numbness and an emptiness that engulfed his entire body. The feeling that touched every part of his being came about five years ago when he learned a close friend of his from his college football days at Maine, Jovan Belcher had died.
“I was pretty sure I’d never have that feeling again,” said Kiefer, a native of Bridgeport.
That all changed Monday morning. The Bridgeport High School graduate awoke with the numbness and later in the day it was still there clinging to him in an unwelcome manner.
The good news for Kiefer was that he awoke. Just hours before he was at the Route 91 Harvest, an annual Las Vegas music festival that was heavy on country music this past Sunday. Kiefer, who is living in Las Vegas, was with friends and among 22,000 that were there in the open area that hosted the concert.
Those reading this by now know almost certainly where Kiefer was in Vegas. He was near Mandalay Bay, hoping to enjoy some country music when all hell broke loose.
A gunman, 32 floors above Kiefer and all gathered, unleashed a barrage of bullets. The festival soon turned to a killing ground with at least 58 people killed and more than 500 injured. Stephen Craig Paddock, a 64-year-old from Nevada who was a retiree, had nearly a dozen guns with him as he became responsible for the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.
Kash Kiefer thought he was in the middle of listening to Jason Aldean perform. While that was the case, he was in the middle of something else; something he already knows he’ll not only not forget but will shape him in ways he isn’t yet able to comprehend.
“It’s all still fresh. It’s all very surreal,” said Kiefer. “It’s that numbness again that’s hard to explain, but you know you want it to go away.”
Kiefer didn’t just have a near death experience. They were experiences, as in plural. Consider that Kiefer was in the crowd as the gunman, according to several media reports, fired away for more than 10 minutes with nothing stopping him.
“It’s not completely set in just how lucky I am,” said Kiefer. “I’m thankful to be alive.”
Kiefer actually had no plans of even going to the event. But as things often do in Vegas, being a local allowed him to secure some cheap tickets to the event.
“The plan was to just go and have an enjoyable evening,” said Kiefer. “It was a beautiful night and what made it better were all these military people were in attendance and the artists were all about the military. It was really a lot of fun, but it changed fast.”
According to Kiefer, a few minutes before the major shooting spree began he heard what he thought were fireworks being let off.
“It was this ‘pop, pop, pop’ in the background. Where we were at, where the lighting apparatus was at, I turned around expecting to see some smoke or fireworks and I didn’t see it,” said Kiefer. “I just thought that it was weird … It was a few minutes later when I heard it again, but wasn’t sure if it was fireworks or gunshots. The music was still going on, but you know something wasn’t right.”
Kiefer, who said he’s no expert on firearms, started getting alarmed.
“I’ve been to a range so when it picked up, I knew 100 percent that I was hearing an automatic weapon. That’s when you knew it was open fire, but the reaction by everyone just seemed to be slow at first, including my own reaction,” he said. “The seriousness sunk in real quick when I was watching the concert and kept hearing the noise.”
The turning point was what he saw on stage. Aldean and the band took off and Kiefer said he knew immediately it was serious. What he and his friends did next may have saved their lives.
“So many people were hitting the deck, which is a natural instinct,” said Kiefer. “The sad thing is you were a sitting duck if you hit the ground and my decision was to take off.
For several minutes, Kiefer and his friends took off. They dodged people all around them and in the process dodged bullets as well not knowing where they were coming from or how long it would last.
“The speed those shots were going off was amazing. I would have sworn there was more than one shooter,” said Kiefer. “It was hard to process, but as I was running I’m praying that I’m not going to get hit … The whole thing was like an out of body experience.”
Kiefer said he unfortunately saw people going down due to the bullets. In his own social circle, as of now, everyone was alive.
“A couple of my friends were shot, but they’re alive and I’m praying for them and their families,” said Kiefer.
Kiefer said he kept running and the mass of humanity was pushing and shoving trying to get out. He said he saw people getting hit by cars as the wall of people surged forward.
“It was honestly just madness,” said Kiefer. “It was a free for all.”
Kiefer said he and his friends eventually ended up inside the MGM a little more than a half a mile away. Once inside, the hotel – as just about likely every other place in Las Vegas – was on lockdown.
“We didn’t have a room there, but we weren’t getting out. If you had a room there and weren’t in before the lockdown, you weren’t getting in,” said Kiefer, who is working in Medical Device Sales in Vegas.
In the chaos, Kiefer said a man they never met asked if they had a room. He invited Kiefer and his friends up to stay out the lockdown, which they did until 3:30 a.m.
Among the first things he did when he got secured was to contact his mother. At this time, word had yet to break nationally about the incident.
“I just wanted to make sure she knew and that she would let my family and friends know I was okay,” said Kiefer.
Physically, Kiefer said he got away with a ripped shirt and a few scratches. Emotionally, he’s still weighing the damage.
“I’ve been a person involved with things that gives you adrenaline and you enjoy, but this was adrenaline fueled by chaos because you’ve got a hundred rounds a minute being fired at you and you don’t know where it’s coming from. It would break for a second and start again,” he said. “I’ll come to grips with this because I know I’m one of the lucky ones.
“I’m just thankful and grateful to be alive,” he continued. “My thoughts and prayers are with those who didn’t make it and those who were injured. God knows I’m fortunate.”
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Kash Kiefer enjoying himself a few hours before the shooting began. The second photo shows the Mandalay Bay hotel where the shooter unloaded from and shows Kiefer was in the direct line of fire. The bottom two photos Kiefer took during the concert.

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