One year later, Wisconsin native remembers night of Las Vegas shooting
MADISON, Wis. — Kim Linz remembers the sounds as if it were yesterday.
“We thought it was like, fireworks, or an electric short of something like that,” she says, describing the moments a shooter, perched high above in the nearby Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, sprayed a crowd with bullets.
Seated in lawn chairs on the opposite side of the green space at the Route 91 Country Music Festival, it took awhile for it to begin to register. Linz, the principal at Manhattan Beach Middle School in Manhattan Beach, California, had gone to the Route 91 Country Music festival in late September 2017 with friends and co-workers, to celebrate a weekend of fun and country music. What was now unfolding, was nothing short of a nightmare after what had otherwise been one of the best weekends of their lives.
“We saw people running toward us, and someone in our group yelled to get down so we got down,” says Linz “and then the shooting paused, so we got up and ran.”
After squeezing past food vendors lining the opposite side of the greenspace from the Mandalay Bay, Kim huddled briefly with her friends for protection. When she shooting started again, there wasn’t room left for her to duck for cover as more concert-goers piled into the area. Soon, Kim was running again, for her life. Separated from her friends, it all suddenly slowed down for the Mazomanie native.
“When I realized I was alone, it is strange in those moments, you just have this weird realization,” recalled Linz, “I called my husband because I was worried that I was going to be shot, and that I would be alone. And I wanted to make sure that I had someone on the phone that knew to call 911.”
After a brief conversation with her husband Dave back at home in California, she was off and running again. Safe harbor would be found in a Hooters Casino on Tropicana Avenue.
“Forever grateful to Hooters,” Kim laughs, “they were actually great to me”.
As national media started broadcasting images out of Las Vegas, back in Mazomanie, her mom Pennie Wick, and her sister Stephanie Wick, anxiously waited to hear if Kim had made it out alive.
“It was just panicked. And what was probably just minutes seemed like hours,” says Pennie, “because I didn’t know if she was okay.”
Kim, feeling responsible for the group of co-workers with whom she traveled to Las Vegas, felt she needed to keep it together.
“I was trying to keep my emotions in check, and I knew if I talked to my mom I would lose it.”
The moments ahead would be a mad scramble to make sure her friends were OK. One of them, would not be. A special education teacher at Kim’s school, 35-year-old Sandy Casey, who had been attending the concert with her fiance Chris, was among the 58 innocent lives lost.
It would set in motion for Kim, and the Manhattan Unified School District, a year of healing. That healing would begin in the hours ahead for Kim Linz. As is the case with so many educators, her first priority were the students. Kim took the morning flight back to Los Angeles, and went straight to the school from the airport.
“A teacher, Debbie, and I came back Tuesday morning. Just so the kids could see us,” says Kim, “we walked out on the quad together and thank goodness a student ran up and hugged her first so she could fall apart. I managed to hold myself together. The kids just needed to see us, to hug us, to know that we were alive.”
It would take the entire community to begin the healing process at Manhattan Beach Middle School for the next several months. Kim credits outstanding assistant principals, admitting she was in no condition to run in school in the weeks that followed. She says she was fortunate to work for a school district that understood the emotions and the heartache that she and her fellow staff members were feeling. Counseling was available, and Kim says it was a valuable part of the healing process.
As the Oct.1st anniversary drew near, Kim and her friends have grown closer.
“There’s a bond that we all have from this,” says Kim, “this week we’ve been checking in with each other making sure that we’re OK. It’s just nice to know there are people right here.”
Sandy Casey’s memory has also been a powerful tool in the recovery. Pennie joined Kim in Las Vegas in March, as they laid messages around a tree planted in Sandy’s memory at a memorial site to the 58 shooting victims in Las Vegas. On Oct.17, the school will honor Sandy’s memory by dedicated benches in a celebration of her life, engraved with her favorite saying, “Today’s A Good Day, For A Good Day.”
Last weekend Kim joined other survivors to hear Jason Aldean play again in nearby San Bernardino.
“We needed to do that, to really finish what we started on Oct. 1,” says Kim, “we still have great memories and we don’t want those gone just because of 10 minutes from someone that we’ll never understand.”
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