By Robert Whale, For the Mirror
One bad person, thousands of good people.
That’s what Valley Regional Fire Authority Firefighter Dean McAuley wants the world to know about the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nev., last Sunday.
He was in Las Vegas on Sunday with buddies as he is every year for the country music festival there.
They were there, on the same side of the stage they have always chosen, listening to country music star Jason Aldeen, when, for reasons McCauley can’t explain, they opted to move to the other side of the stage.
None knew it, but the move would save their lives.
When the first bullets began raking the crowd, McAuley, like many others, thought someone was shooting off firecrackers.
But not for long – within seconds, his long training and experience told him what was happening.
And he found himself in a field of horror, first desperate to get away from the hail of bullets raining down, and then saving what lives he could, wearing what had been a pristine white Seattle Seahawks jersey, now and increasingly red with blood.
“I could see the bullets hitting the stage, creating sparks,” he told a gathering of reporters Wednesday afternoon at VRFA Station 31 in Auburn.
He could see bodies falling around him.
And a night of other-worldly horrors began.
His instinct and training pushed him into the worst of it, and compelled him to stay on the field.
But a call from VRFA Administrator Eric Robertson, himself a former FBI agent and U.S. Marshall, came in time to tell him what type of gun the shooter or shooters were using —Robertson could tell even over the phone — and advised him to first seek cover, which he did.
“I don’t know what would have happened without that phone call,” McAuley said.
But along with the worst in humanity, one guy shooting from a hotel’s 32nd floor, he would meet the best, coming forward out of nowhere to offer a car, a cab, a word of encouragement, comfort, whatever it took, to save the lives of those around.
“One bad person, 30,000 good ones, incredible people,” he recalled.
One young woman in particular, Natalia, he will never forget.
She didn’t have an exit wound, which was worrisome, he said, because you think, “internal bleeding.”
He got her in the back of an Audi offered by one of those “wonderful people,” hustled her to a hospital, and, as she began to grow faint, he kept her thinking happy thoughts, to keep her mind far away from what was happening. He called her father, told him what had happened, what was happening to his daughter.
He left her to the care of hospital staff, working in blood-drenched rooms and on bloody floors.
When he was back in Auburn, he received a call from that dad, grateful for the off-duty firefighter who’d been there to save his daughter’s life.
“She is an amazing, amazing person,” McAuley said.