In the midst of Sunday night’s chaos and carnage in Las Vegas, Heather Gooze didn’t run. Instead she stayed, holding a stranger’s hand as he died.
“I just didn’t want him to be alone, … to be a John Doe,” Gooze said, choking up as she recounted the horror.
“I’m not the most courageous and strongest person. Something wouldn’t let me run. Like, everybody was running out the door, and something wouldn’t let me go,” she told CNN’s John Berman and Poppy Harlow.
Heather had been working as a bartender at the festival. As the concert venue turned into a killing field, the bar became a triage center, she said.
“Three guys came, basically, running out of the back gate. They were holding … a maintenance ladder, and there was a guy laying on it, and they said, ‘Come over. We need hands. Get over here.'”
Gooze helped move the man to the sidewalk before the others ran back to ferry more people to safety, she recalled.
“I was kind of kneeling on the ground, … and I had my hand over his hand, and I could kind of feel his fingers, like, wrapped around my hand,” she said. “I felt, like, a squeeze on my fingers, and then I just felt the fingers go loose.”
“In the movies you see them, their lips turn blue and pale, in hours,” she said. “Within 10 minutes, we knew that he was gone.”
‘I didn’t want Jordan to not have somebody’
Still, Gooze felt like she couldn’t leave this man, she recalled. Soon, two people joined her.
“I sat there with him for an hour, and then we heard his cell phone ringing. And so, the gentleman that was sitting with me pulled it out of his pocket. I answered the call. It was a friend who had heard about what was going on,” she said.
Gooze told the caller that his friend was no longer breathing. And while on the line, she learned his name: Jordan McIldoon. He was 25 and from Maple Ridge, British Columbia.
She asked how to reach McIldoon’s parents.
“I went on my phone. I went into Facebook, and I looked up his name, and he came up. I sent a message on Facebook to the girl that I thought was his girlfriend and to the only person in his Facebook that had the same last name as him,” Gooze said.
Moments later, Jordan’s phone rang again. It was his mother, who told Gooze that Jordan was her son and gave this stranger the number for his girlfriend, with whom he had gone to the concert, Gooze recalled.
Gooze called the woman, who was in lockdown at the nearby Tropicana hotel.
“She broke down, and she said, ‘You know, he’s the love of my life. This can’t be happening.’ ‘You know,’ I told her, ‘I was here. I’ve been with him this whole time.’ I go, ‘I promise you, I will not leave him. I will not let them go anywhere with him or do anything or say anything that I’m not going to tell you about.'”
Gooze stayed with McIldoon’s body for four hours, she said, until 3:30 in the morning. All the while, she kept in contact with Jordan’s mother and his girlfriend.
“There was another guy that was by us,” Gooze told CNN. “His wife had been shot and killed, the mother of his three kids. He never left her side. And I didn’t want Jordan to not have somebody with him, so I stayed all the way until the detective came over, you know, saying that they were ready to move and to process.”
Gooze shared the contact numbers she had, she said, then moved aside to let the authorities do their work.
‘I just sat with him’
With tears rolling down her face, Gooze said she didn’t feel like she had done enough.
“The heroes are the paramedics and the police and these guys that were running back in when we didn’t know if the shooter was still there or not and grabbing people from the ground and dragging them out,” she told CNN.
“I just sat with him,” Gooze said. “I would like to think, if it was me, somebody wouldn’t let me sit there alone.”