In the chaos that ensued Sunday night when a gunman began firing from above into a crowd at a Las Vegas concert, people frantically searching for cover found themselves surrounded by carnage amidst the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in United States history.
“It was like we were in a war movie,” Rob Handley, 34, a medical device salesman from Las Vegas, tells PEOPLE for this week’s cover story on the heroism and heartbreak that followed the shooting deaths of at least 58 people and wounding of another 527. Police say the gunman, Stephen Paddock, 64, then turned the gun on himself in his nearby 32nd-floor hotel room overlooking the crowd.
“We were laying in puddles of blood and my girlfriend’s fiend was covered in blood,” Handley says. “We thought she’d ben hit, then we realized the blood was coming from above us. It was literally seeping down on us from the bleachers above.”
Here are more tales of terror from Sunday night’s massacre:
Darian Hickey, 19, student from Las Vegas:
“Jason Aldean had just started singing ‘When She Says Baby.’ We were not far from the stage and thinking about getting food, and all of a sudden, I heard this pop. It felt like someone was walking around with a machine gun, I could feel it.”
Keith Gale, 50, manager for Jake Owen from Nashville:
“I have no reference for war, but it sure felt like a battlefield. Just a constant ‘pop, pop, pop.’ We were crouched behind a trailer near the stage, and it was constant steady firing.
“People didn’t trample each other and you were in a battle and had no idea where this person was but people were boosting each other over fences, helping the wounded. Men tore their shirts off to use them to plug wounds.”
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Mark Gray, 37, PEOPLE contributor from Las Vegas:
“Pop, pop, pop. It sounded like a firecracker, and one of the girls I was with said, ‘That just hit me. My leg stings.’ And then the girl next to her said, ‘It hit me too.’ [Gray now thinks they were hit with shrapnel.] Whatever it was it wasn’t strong enough to break the denim of their jeans.
“The shots just went on forever. It was relentless. You hear the pops and the windows shattering. It’s hard to know what to think or do. We kind of realized at the same time, ‘We’ve got to get out of here.’ Someone said, ‘Go. Go now.’ And we ran.”
Kristina Ambartsumian, 32, makeup artist from Los Angeles:
“We took a picture at 10:04 pm on the side of the stage. We were dancing and having a good time and we heard the first round of shots. The shooting started at 10:08.
“We saw a girl get shot right in front of us. We didn’t know where it was coming from. It lasted for a good 15 minutes.”
• Reporting by KC BAKER, JOHNNY DODD, CHRIS HARRIS, STEVE HELLING, DIANE HERBST, JD HEYMAN, MEGAN JOHNSON, CAITLIN KEATING, LINDSAY KIMBLE, CHRISTINE PELISEK, MELINDA SHECKELLS, HARRIET SOKMENSUER and JULIETTE VARA