STONEWALL — Jody Ansell never had a Thanksgiving full of more thanks than last weekend after surviving the biggest mass shooting in United States history in Las Vegas.
"You have no idea, you have no idea," Ansell stated emphatically when asked how it feels to be home.
"Just breathing the Canadian air, being surrounded by my family. It's just so good to be back."
Ansell was shot in the right arm just below the elbow on Oct. 1 while attending the third and last night of the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas. A man sprayed gunfire into the crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, across Las Vegas Boulevard.
The "dit-dit-dit-dit" of machine gun fire, as Ansell described it, continued unabated, except for brief intervals for reloading, for at least 10 minutes. She said it seemed more like 20 minutes.
The shooter killed at least 58 people and wounded more than 500 others. Investigators continue to search for a motive explaining why the 64-year-old Nevada resident, who took his own life after the shooting, opened fire.
In an interview from her hospital bed in Las Vegas last week, Ansell told the Free Press some of what happened during the shooting. But she said Tuesday that doctors had her on morphine and she doesn't remember the interview.
There was a lot she left out.
Ansell and her friend Jan Lambourne, from Inwood, were standing and listening to what Ansell believes was the fourth song in the set list of country music star Jason Aldean.
They looked at each other in amazement when they heard what sounded like gunfire. Ansell has her hunter safety certificate, so she recognized the sound.
Then Lambourne, who was shot in the pelvis, dropped down and Ansell was shot through the arm.
"I heard voices yelling to take cover. I was bleeding so bad. I ran a little ways to the tent area, it was a booth of some kind, and I ducked down behind a garbage can where there were two other people."
The "dit-dit-dit-dit" continued.
"I had these big platform shoes on and I just thought to myself, I'm going to take these shoes off and I'm going to run."
She ran to a chain-link fence nearly two metres high and tried to scale it. She got to the top but couldn't quite get over and recalls screaming, "Push me, push me. I've been shot," when the fence collapsed from the weight of so many people trying to get over it.
"I had no socks, no shoes, and I was running over what was a gravel parking lot, and my feet were so sore, and I kept running and running, and my legs were covered in blood," she said. She could still hear the gunfire.
She got past the parking lot to a paved road and tried to flag down help, but cars wouldn't stop. "Finally, I just thought the next car I'm going to stand in front and it's either going to stop or run me down because I need help."
A car full of women stopped. They took her inside and one woman took off her own top to wrap Ansell's wound. Ansell tried to get out her cell phone to call her husband but she was too weak and dropped it in the car and lost it.
"I could still hear "dit-dit-dit-dit, dit-dit-dit-dit." The guy was still shooting the whole time I was running away and in the car."
They came across a hangar where helicopter tours were boarded and Ansell asked them to drop her off. A nurse there named Christine and an army medic named Melissa dressed her wound, using two tourniquets, one high and one low, because the bleeding wouldn't stop.
After what felt like two hours, she was told an ambulance had finally arrived, but it turned out to be a pickup truck.
"I still don't understand why," she said. She was taken away in the open back of the truck along with several others. She was traumatized and insisted the people duck down in case the shooting started again, even though considerable time had passed by then.
"I was so scared of shots being fired, and of being in the open, and they all ducked down with me, and they drove me to the end of the road where there was a police officer. I just remember saying, 'are these windows (of the police cruiser) bulletproof?' and the officer said, 'Don't worry, Jody. We're going to get you to the hospital.'"
She was taken to St. Rose Siena Hospital; she has praise for the staff there and the treatment she received. Her husband travelled to Las Vegas after the shooting and they flew to Vancouver after she was discharged. They work for a pipeline company that sends them all over Canada, and their last eight-month stint has been in the West Coast city. Then they drove home to Stonewall, pulling a trailer with their belongings from their Vancouver rental.
She has reconnected with Lambourne, who is also back in Winnipeg and is still in hospital. They were able to meet in Las Vegas again after the shooting, and have been talking once or twice a day since.
Lambourne emailed from her hospital bed in Winnipeg to say that "I've been overwhelmed with (media) requests and all my body wants to do is sleep. I've been sleeping most of the week."
Lambourne said she and her husband and son, who travelled to Las Vegas to be with her after the shooting, got back Saturday night.
"I have a long recovery ahead but I said I was coming home and we did last night. My husband and son with me were flown by a AMR jet (AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines) back to Winnipeg where I'm resting comfortably in a Winnipeg hospital. Just focusing on getting stronger and getting healed up. Made it home for Thanksgiving with my family ❤️Jan"
Fortunately for Ansell, the bullet that struck her went straight through her arm — she has entry and exit wounds — and didn't hit any bones or leave shrapnel.
She said she has no idea when her life will feel normal again.
"(The shooting) is replayed in my mind constantly — constantly — you have no idea," she said, adding it makes her feel anxious.
"Being home definitely helps but it's going to take a while. I have not left the house yet, and I got back Saturday. It's just the anxiety."
Read more by Bill Redekop .