‘We Will Be Back’
Big Country couple survive Las Vegas shooting, offer comfort to fellow survivors
By Julie Anderson
Although it was 3 a.m., Bryan and Kim Farmer were wide awake. The couple from Callahan County, where Bryan serves as a County Commissioner, had just bid farewell to seven young Californians who had taken shelter in the Farmer’s hotel room at the MGM Grande in Las Vegas.
Some five hours earlier, the Farmers and the Californians had survived the rain of rapid gunfire mercilessly sprayed at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. While they were physically unharmed, two of the Californians had the blood of others on them.
“Kim cleaned them up in our hotel room,” recalled Bryan.
A few weeks later, safely back home and the routine of daily life, he and his wife received a card and letter from the Californians thanking the couple for their care and kindness during one of the largest mass casualty shootings in U.S. history.
Adrenaline, Protection and Compassion
The official timeline of the Las Vegas tragedy has been adjusted and readjusted as the investigation has continued. The latest reports indicate that shortly before 10 p.m. on Oct. 1, Stephen Paddock, 64, sprayed some 200 rounds from his suite into the hallway of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and wounded an unarmed security guard. Shortly after 10 p.m., Paddock unleashed a barrage of bullets from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay onto the festival crowd below, killing at least 58 people and injuring at least 520 as terrified concert-goers ran for cover. Paddock eventually turned the gun on himself.
The personal timeline for Bryan Farmer began just after the first shots were fired behind the bleachers where the Farmers were seated. While many have stated they mistook the gunfire for fireworks, Bryan knew from the beginning that the sound he heard was from a gun.
“But this was Las Vegas, and I thought perhaps someone was making a movie,” Bryan remembered. “I never dreamed someone was shooting at us.”
The Farmers are no strangers to Las Vegas and the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival.
“My wife is a big fan of country and western music,” Bryan explained, “and this was our third time to go to the festival. It’s a time of year we just enjoy getting away for about four days – really the only vacation we take.”
The festival was coming to a close, and Bryan and Kim were in their purchased stadium seats next to the stage in the middle of the bleachers, Section B, Row G.
American country music singer Jason Aldean was well into his set when the gunfire started. In a matter of moments, it became tragically clear to Bryan that the crowd was the target; the music stopped, the stage went dark, and the audience began fleeing. The cries of “get down” were interrupted with the unmistakable sound of bullets hitting bleachers and chairs, and Bryan saw two people fall to the ground.
The realization of the danger led to a flood of adrenaline, and Bryan Farmer acted on his first instinct: protect his wife. Bryan pushed Kim down, told her to lie on the foot row of the bleachers, and stretched his body across hers for what seemed like 10 to 15 minutes.
“I just wanted to make sure she didn’t get hurt,” Bryan shared.
The Farmers were sitting by a 30-something couple from California, and this husband also stretched out on top of his wife. As the bullets flew within 10 feet of them, Kim tried to comfort and calm her new friend, both of them bearing the weight of their husbands who lay over them until the last bullet fell.
After the gunfire stopped, a deputy sheriff began yelling: “Come on! Hurry! Stay low! Whatever you do, don’t stop and help. Help is coming.”
The Las Vegas Police Department and the local sheriff’s department “did an excellent job,” Bryan recounted. They guided the crowd, urging everyone to keep moving and avoid a bottleneck so first responders could reach the fallen.
A short time later, the Farmers arrived at their hotel. As they headed toward their ninth-floor room, they turned to the group of young people behind them.
“We asked them if they had a room,” Bryan recollected. “They said no, and they said they were scared. So we invited them in.”
Bryan turned on the television, and as the group watched and talked, the magnitude of what happened started to set in. As the adrenaline subsided, a retroactive fear of sorts was felt among the small group as they realized what they had just survived.
“We never did go to sleep that night,” Bryan said.
As soon as the young Californians left and Bryan and Kim cleaned up, friends and family started texting and calling and checking on them.
The Farmers were scheduled to leave later that day, Monday, Oct. 2, and they flew into Abilene about 10 p.m.
In the weeks to follow, not only would the Farmers receive a letter from the Californians who shared their room, but Kim would also receive an email from the wife she calmed and comforted on the bleachers during the barrage of gunfire.
Commissioner Farmer, currently in his sixth term with plans to run for another, said without hesitation that he and Kim will return for next year’s concert festival.