Bayelee Burton can tell you how much life can change in a week.
At this time last week, the 20-year-old Gillette resident was traveling to Las Vegas to attend the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival, a Lollapalooza-like gathering for country music. Seven days later, the family is back in Gillette having survived the worst mass shooting in modern American history.
They also brought home a few reminders of the ordeal, like the injured right thigh of Burton’s father Clint, who was hit by the hail of bullets that killed 59 people and injured another 527.
They also have a photograph of themselves in Clint’s hospital room at University Medical Center with President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, who visited the Gillette family while in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
“It was awesome,” Bayelee said of the president’s visit. “He talked for quite awhile, like five or 10 minutes, and was relieved that my dad was going to be OK. He thanked me for what I did. It was quite awesome.”
Bayelee, a recent graduate of the Campbell County Fire Department academy and Gillette College’s EMT course, didn’t hesitate when the shooting spree began. He helped calm people down and move them to a safe place, along with giving medical attention when needed.
He doesn’t seem comfortable talking about his actions that night because he said many others also put themselves in harm’s way to help others. The Burton family would like to locate two of those people, Bayelee said.
“They’re the two guys who helped out my dad,” he said.
When Clint was hit, two men came to his aid. They applied a tourniquet to his leg, which Bayelee said likely kept his father from bleeding to death, and took him to get medical attention.
“It’s amazing how everyone came together and used anything they could find to help,” he said. “Basically, it’s what you have to do. It’s a bad situation, so you have to get people out of there and help them out.”
Modesty aside, Bayelee said it was humbling to be thanked personally for his actions by the president of the United States.
“In that situation, it doesn’t matter what race issues (are going on in the country) or political beliefs, it’s the president,” he said, adding he wishes the meeting could’ve happened under happier circumstances.
“It’s definitely something you never think could happen, but the bad thing is it does happen,” he said. “That guy (the shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock) was definitely off the hook. He wasn’t straight in the head, I’ll tell you that.”
The family returned to Gillette early Thursday morning and Clint, who works in the city of Gillette’s IT department, was getting some much-needed rest as of press time, Bayelee said.
‘A nation in mourning’
While shaken by the massacre, Bayelee said he also feels lucky that his family is alive and well and that his father is expected to recover. For other families at the festival that night, there’s a much more tragic ending.
President Trump’s stop in Las Vegas on Wednesday included visits to many of those hundreds of injured people. He prayed with some while offering condolences to victims and thanks to first-responders.
“America is truly a nation in mourning,” Trump said. “Our souls are stricken with grief for every American who lost a husband or a wife, a mother or a father, a son or a daughter. We know that your sorrow feels endless. We stand together to help you carry your pain.”