When Tressa Loiko and Matthew Swan opted to take their vacation in Las Vegas about three weeks ago, their plan to spend a week on St. Marten had already fallen through.

That last-minute choice brought the two Augusta residents to the city where the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history was unleashed Sunday night from a high-rise hotel room at Mandalay Bay at the south end of the Las Vegas strip.

On Monday, the pair were planning to go to Mandalay Bay to see the Michael Jackson ONE Cirque du Soleil show, after weighing whether they would remain in Las Vegas for the balance of their vacation.

“You see these horror stories all the time, but you never expect to be a part of it,” Loiko, 23, said from her hotel room Monday. “You don’t realize the impact it will have on you. We just keep saying how lucky we were that we weren’t a part of it. We’re very thankful.”

On Sunday, Loiko and Swan, 22, were heading back to their room at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino, after dinner and a tour of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Las Vegas casino Sunday around 10 p.m., when someone selling discount show tickets on the Strip starting yelling that an active shooter was on the street.

Loiko, a nurse at MaineGeneral Medical Center, and Swan, who owns an independent insurance agency in Brunswick, had been hearing the start of rumors from tourists and employees for several minutes already.

“At that point, we didn’t know what was happening so we decided to walk slowly back to our hotel,” she said, “but we were hesitant about it.”

In the next few minutes, it was clear they should not continue. They had seen people running from the south — the direction of their hotel — toward them, and they decided to move back into the Paris Casino.

“I was trying to bring up my phone,” Loiko said. Around them, people were talking about multiple shooters being in several hotels.

“We were dumbfounded,” she said. “We knew we couldn’t head back.”

As they made their way away from the entrance and toward the back of the crowded casino, they heard a couple of people screaming, and then people started running toward them, including hotel employees.

They all made their way out through back hallways an into a rear parking lot that was mostly empty. At that point, she said, Swan called the Las Vegas Police Department to find out where to go. They were told to stay off the Strip.

“They weren’t able to tell us what to do,” she said. “At that point, we were just trying to get off the street somewhere where we could be undercover,” she said. Just northeast of them was the Westin Las Vegas Hotel & Spa, where they were able to rent a room for the night.

They couldn’t see what was going on in their room that faced away from the Strip, but they heard sirens of passing police cars. When they turned on the news, rumors of multiple shooters and even car bombs were dispelled as reports emerged about Stephen Craig Paddock and his murderous shooting spree.

When they were able, they called back to family and friends in central Maine, many of whom were asleep and unaware of the shootings, to let them know they were safe. Nonstop texts and communications from friends and family kept them grounded, and they were able to sleep a little.

“Last night after we were safe, we were having trouble juggling our emotions,” Loiko said. “I don’t even think we realized how big this event actually was. The more we see on TV and the more people reach out … we’re kind of in shock.”

They returned to their room Monday morning, and spent the day sleeping. Their plans, to do touristy things like see the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon, are still on for now.

“They’re still kind of up in the air,” she said. “But we’ll go with the flow.”

Jessica Lowell – 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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