As tourists do, Kristen Lee Barrett and her boyfriend were posing for pictures outside Caesars Palace when she heard a series of staccato pops.
She thought it must’ve been the sound of the iconic Las Vegas hotel’s water show.
In reality, it was the sound of America’s next mass shooting — the deadliest in the nation’s modern history — in real-time.
For the next two hours, the Mableton couple hid in a corner outside Caesars Palace as a gunman, identified by police as Stephen Paddock, killed about five dozen people and injured hundreds more.
“You felt like a sitting duck,” said Barrett, 29.
The 64-year-old retiree shot from 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel into the crowd of 22,000 at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival as Jason Aldean played, police said. Paddock was found dead in his hotel room.
The Cobb couple was in Vegas as part of a 30th birthday surprise Barrett had planned for her boyfriend Jeroan Bailey.
They’d gone to Mandalay Bay the night before the rampage to take pictures with the sparking Vegas skyline in the background.
Barrett said Bailey wanted to buy her tickets to the music festival — she’s a country fan — as a “thank you” for the birthday surprise. But he didn’t because he didn’t know what she had planned for that night.
“It’s a terrifying thought,” she said of the prospect that they could’ve been at the show.
What wasn’t planned for that night was having to prop open a door outside Caesars so they could run in if the shooting started again.
With every car that pulled up, they wondered if it was another shooter.
“Our stomachs were turning,” she said.
Information was sparse and mixed at the time.
“No one knew how many shooters, anything about the shooters, if it was a personal thing or if you were picking people off,” she said.
Eventually, they got a cab and made it back to their hotel about 1 a.m.
They dozed off and every time they woke up and saw the news, more people had died: two people, then 20, then 50.
When they got up for good five hours later, Barrett said she had 10 missed calls and 30 texts.
She said Monday is their last day in Vegas, but they won’t be going outside.
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