Tense moments for Georgetown dad waiting to hear from daughters in Vegas

Sisters Arieana Valencia, left, and Michelle Austin, FaceTime with their father in Georgetown after escaping the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival (KXAN Photo/Lauren Kravets)
Sisters Arieana Valencia, left, and Michelle Austin, FaceTime with their father in Georgetown after escaping the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival (KXAN Photo/Lauren Kravets)

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — “My heart just dropped, it sunk,” said Michael Valencia.

Valencia woke up in his Georgetown home Sunday night to the news of another mass shooting. When he looked a little closer, he realized the shooting happened at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas; the same place where his daughters had been all day. Moments later, Valencia checked his phone and saw a message from his youngest daughter saying they were safe in someone’s apartment.

“People crying for help, screaming for help,” said 23-year-old Arieana Valencia as she described the scene on FaceTime with her father Michael.

Arieana was celebrating her sister Michelle’s birthday in Vegas with their mother and two younger sisters. The women go to the Harvest Festival every year, but this year turned to tragedy when they heard what they thought were fireworks. “As soon as we heard those gunshots, we all linked arms, hunched down and took off,” described 27-year-old Michelle Austin.

“We pretty much ran for our lives, we didn’t know what was going on,” recalled Arieana.

After taking cover in an apartment near the Hooters hotel for hours, the girls saw something they wish they hadn’t when they stepped back onto the strip. “We saw dead bodies, bloody clothes, injured people,” remembers Austin.

Arieana thought many of the victims were toward the front of the stage, so she’s thankful her family moved. “Earlier during the day we were there by the stage and thank God we decided to stay back at the end of the show because that would’ve been us.”

“I’m so glad their instincts kind of took over,” said Valencia. “We should nowadays prepare, and prepare our younger kids for things like this, you don’t really think these things will happen to you.”

“It’s imprinted in my mind for the rest of my life,” said Austin.

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