Las Vegas shooting survivor melds past and future

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School of Education student Hayley Steinmuller ’19 aims to heal trauma in herself and others

When the sound of gunfire first echoed through the venue of the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, Nev., shortly after 10 p.m. on Oct. 1, University of Redlands counseling student Hayley Steinmuller ’19 assumed it was fireworks. When she turned around, she heard someone say it was gunfire, and she began to sprint.

That was the beginning of a 12-hour nightmare that would leave 58 people dead and 850 wounded.

“While I was running, I looked back and saw a wave of people running behind me,” Steinmuller says. “I could hear my friend screaming my name, but I couldn’t run the other way in the crowd to find her.”

Steinmuller ’19 (right) and two friends stand in the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, Nev.

Steinmuller ’19 (right) and two friends stand in the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, Nev.

After hopping a 10-foot-tall fence and fleeing a mile from the festival grounds, she stopped to call her mom. “I told her there had been a shooting at the festival and that I loved her,” she says. “Then I hung up.”

Steinmuller was one of the first to arrive at a neighboring hotel and notified personnel of what was happening. Along with 20 others looking to hide in case multiple gunmen were on the
Las Vegas strip, she made her way into the hotel’s industrial-sized kitchen freezer.

“An off-duty emergency medical technician and two off-duty policemen were in the freezer with us,” she says. “People started bringing in others who had been shot in order for the EMT to treat them.”

After about an hour, the group emerged to sit on the casino floor. Some seven hours later, at about six in the morning, they were told they could go. After reuniting with her friend, who had also escaped uninjured, Steinmuller headed back to Southern California.

After the shooting, Steinmuller and her friends repurposed their wristbands into bracelets. (Photo by Ellen Davis)

After the shooting, Steinmuller and her friends repurposed their wristbands into bracelets. (Photo by Ellen Davis)

In the midst of it all, she sent an email to School of Education Counseling Professor Marcina Riley, notifying her that she wouldn’t be able to make it to class that day.

“If you miss a day of class, you’re supposed to write a paper, so I asked her what the requirements were,” says Steinmuller. “She asked if I was OK. She was really supportive and told me not to write the paper, and now we laugh about the fact I asked about it.”

After the shooting, Steinmuller resumed her regular work schedule as a substitute teacher for the Riverside Unified School District. But she soon began to recognize personal signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I work at a middle school, so kids would run by screaming or someone would close a door too hard and I’d begin to panic,” she says. “After being in a counseling program for school, I knew individual counseling would help.”

School of Education Counseling Professor Marcina Riley (right) has been a key support for Steinmuller (left), helping her explore the effects of trauma in the months following the shooting. (Photo by Coco McKown '04, '10)

School of Education Counseling Professor Marcina Riley (right) has been a key support for Steinmuller (left), helping her explore the effects of trauma in the months following the shooting. (Photo by Coco McKown ’04, ’10)

Steinmuller also explored the effects of trauma in her School of Education coursework. Riley’s class included a lesson on how to counsel students with trauma, which prompted a discussion on how to help others recover from traumatic events.

Steinmuller definitely hopes to use her experiences to help others. She connects with fellow survivors of the Route 91 shooting through a private Facebook group and dedicated events. And one day, she hopes to establish a counseling group of her own, drawing on all she has learned.

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