She chooses herself As Natalie Grumet lifted off the ground, she felt an excruciating burn in her face like she had never felt before.
She was one of 867 injured when gunman Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire on more than 22,000 concert-goers in Las Vegas from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort Hotel.
Paddock killed 60 people before turning the gun on himself, making it the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
Natalie is among the brave survivors to tell her story in new BBC documentary 11 Minutes: America’s Deadliest Mass Shooting.
She describes the moment she realized she had been shot: “My face felt like it was on fire. I don’t even know how to describe the extreme pain.”
“I was just in shock trying to figure out what had just happened. It’s weird because sometimes I feel like everything is in slow motion. And then everything happened so quickly at the same time.”
Natalie partied with her husband at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival after finally beating cancer after an agonizing 10-year battle.
She recalls hearing a series of pops, which she and other revelers mistook for fireworks as country star Jason Aldean began his performance.
But they soon realized that the source of the noise was far more sinister.
After smuggling in 23 guns, the evil Paddock fired more than 1,000 bullets at the crowd after smashing in the windows of his hotel suite with a hammer.
Natalie says: “I heard people screaming and crying and begging for help.
“These human screams are so loud in my head and in my heart. They tore me up listening to them.”
Realizing that her left side was covered in blood, Natalie fought the excruciating pain while she and her husband tried to find a way out.
She knew she had to go to the hospital and that her life depended on it.
“When the doctors said they didn’t know if I was going to survive and I proved them wrong and I came back stronger every time, I was like, ‘Tonight is no different. You have to pull it together. You mustn’t let yourself be torn apart.’ . You didn’t survive 10 years of cancer to die here tonight… That’s what I wished everyone around me through those screams and gunshots,” Natalie recalls.
“When I got up to run, you realized it wasn’t going to be good. Because the people around you, some of them, are not going home…
“When you saw a body on the ground you knew it had been shot – gates had been knocked down, fences had been knocked down.”
They said I looked like a grenade had exploded from my mouth
Natalie only realized the full extent of her injuries when she reached the nearby Tropicana Hotel.
The bullet destroyed her left jawbone and broke her chin in half, compromising her airway, and she urgently needed a bloody transfusion.
“I can tell by the look on their faces how bad my situation is, how awful my wound is, and my heart sinks just seeing their reactions,” she says.
“Someone yelled that they were going to triage to get me back in this room.
“They said I looked like a grenade had come out of the inside of my mouth. You could see the gums, teeth, bones and chin sticking out.”
Shortly thereafter, Natalie lost consciousness and when she woke up she was completely paralyzed.
She had to undergo surgery for years and still suffers from health problems, but is determined not to let it “break” her.
“I survived cancer, I was shot in the largest shooting in US history, but life isn’t by that standard,” she says.
“I’m here to stay, I’m here to fight and I’m here to do what I have to do to survive.”
“Here I die”
Another survivor speaking in the documentary is Parker Marx, who was at the concert with his girlfriend Giana Baca and her twin sister Natalia.
Giana was hit by a bullet and Parker recalls lying on top of her and telling her he loved her while deafening screams filled the air.
“Giana didn’t know what was going on,” he says. “I knew exactly when she was hit because as I lay on top of her I could almost feel her body jerking. I remember opening my eyes and saying ‘Oh shit’.”
“At that point I was like, ‘Okay, that’s it. Here I die right here.”
Giana, who survived, adds: “I just remember looking at the ground below me and I saw a puddle of blood… I just remember seeing the moon and the puddle. I.” [had] I have no idea what was going on.”
Natalia was also shot and taken to a hospital, where doctors determined the bullet was just a few millimeters from her main artery.
She was told they had run out of morphine and doctors had to cut her open to insert a chest tube without medication. Remarkably, she made it too.
“Hole in My Throat”
At around 10:12 p.m., in the midst of the chaos, Jonathan Smith, who had children and, as a black man, had experienced racism at that night’s concert, was one of the many people who fled to safety.
On the way out, he found dozens of injured people lying helpless on the ground and made the brave decision to go back to the gunfire to help them.
He says: “It was pure chaos. Everyone just ran. I see these two ladies pinned down crying and screaming.”
“I see this guy who’s pinned behind one car and this girl who’s pinned behind another car and they’re crying but everyone just left them.”
I can’t say what made me want to go back there, but something inside me thought: It’s the right thing to do. I’ve never been shot like that before. I kind of went into a different zone
“I can’t say what made me want to go back there, but something inside of me thought it was the right thing to do. I’ve never been shot like that before. I kind of got into a different zone.”
As Jonathan was leading the women to safety, he felt his body twitch and twist in a different direction as he was shot in the neck.
He explains: “I felt like my body had been hit by a trailer truck with such force. My glasses fell off and I landed on the floor.”
“I get this burning sensation in my shoulder and my shirt is starting to feel wet.
“My shirt had gone from bright white to red. I had been shot. I didn’t know how bad it was. I could not see it. All I knew was that I had a big hole right in my throat.”
My shirt went from bright white to red. I had been shot. I didn’t know how serious it was. I could not see it. All I knew was that I had a big hole in my throat
Nobody stopped to help him. Jonathan claims he encountered a car, but the driver rolled up the window and sped away. He was eventually joined by Tom McGrath, an off-duty San Diego police officer.
It later emerged that Jonathan had helped “countless” people before he was shot.
The mass shooting sparked heated debates over US gun laws that are still raging.
Despite a series of mass shootings that have taken place since then, American lawmakers continue to be embroiled in disputes over the issue.
11 minutes: America’s deadliest mass shooting airs tonight at 9:50 p.m.