Las Vegas survivors come to Washington

Jason Sherman survived the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas one month ago. (Photo courtesy of Everytown for Gun Safety)

Upon hearing the first gunshots, Jason Sherman’s coworker told him to look up to see the fireworks. Moments later, they had dropped to the ground before ducking and running behind the nearby bar trailer, chased by a barrage of bullets.

He was there. He survived. But he’ll never forget.

“You could hear just the continuous sound of the clips and the bullets hitting off the bar,” the 29-year-old told WJW Wednesday, the one-month anniversary of the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and injured more than 500. “And you could hear so many people screaming.”

Sherman, who is Jewish, was in Washington Wednesday with three fellow Las Vegas survivors to meet with members of Congress and urge them to act on gun reform.

He and his coworker — both at the festival with Anheuser Busch tending to the vending machines the company was trying out there — spent hours in fear for their life, he said. They made it out of the festival grounds and to a hotel, but had no way of knowing if they were safe. They ran from hotel to hotel at least three times, hearing alarms or loud noises or reports of more shooters. They hid in a storage closet, behind an air conditioning unit and in a bathroom stall.

He and his coworker eventually made it, safely, to their own hotel rooms.

“I’ve always thought of myself as being a fairly strong person, not necessarily affected by this type of trauma,” he said. “The day after, I just wanted everything to be normal. I went back to work and was joking about it with my friends because it was the only way I knew how to cope with it. But 24 hours later, I couldn’t sleep, loud noises bothered me, I couldn’t watch TV. It took like two weeks before I could operate at a level closer to how it was before.”

Sherman, who lives in New York, took some time off to work through it. In the immediate aftermath, he had been following the updates in the news. But when, a couple days later, he saw a video of the incident that seemed like it had been taken from near where he had been, it felt like he was back there, he said. He had to step away from the news for a while.

Southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, near where the Oct. 1 shooting took place (Photo by InSapphoWeTrust/flickr)

But one thing he did take heart in was seeing people talk about gun reform, to see the collective will to enact change. This had never really been an issue he’d been involved with before, he said, but now? Now, after hearing the constant and never-ending barrage of bullets one month ago, he can’t fathom how people can be against reforms like background checks and regulating bump stocks (mechanisms that turn semi-automatic assault weapons in to the rapid fire of automatic ones) and silencers.

“I’ve never been active in gun policy in any way,” Sherman said. “I actually grew up in a pretty conservative area [outside of Orlando] with a lot of guns. I myself grew up shooting guns, but there are just some things that don’t need to be in people’s hands.”

Before Las Vegas, it was the killing of 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in June 2016 that had the unenviable distinction of being the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. But even a tragedy like that hitting close to home — though by that time, Sherman was already living in New York — doesn’t prepare you for living through it, he said.

And now, one month later, he’s seen the will to enact change in gun laws die down again. So, here he is, teamed up with Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“Once I saw the national story changing when people weren’t talking about it, I felt like I needed to bring it back,” Sherman said.

hmonicken@midatlanticmedia.com

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