Katie Woodall sprawled on the ground, the gunshot making it impossible for her to move her left leg.
In the chaos of the Las Vegas concert shooting, Woodall clung to consciousness.
A woman — one of many strangers who appeared that night to help — said she was a nurse. She tried to calm Woodall and keep her awake by asking personal questions.
She asked about children. Woodall told the nurse she has two boys, one in the Navy and another in high school.
“What do you do?” the nurse then asked.
“I’m a football mom,” Woodall replied.
Woodall, 48, has been a regular at her youngest son Noah’s games, from pee-wee to Ironwood Ridge High School, where he is a senior defensive lineman. Woodall is known in the stands for the cowbell she clangs to let Noah — and everyone else — know that she’s his biggest fan.
Three nights after Ironwood Ridge’s Sept. 28 game against Mountain View, Woodall and her husband, Wayne, were in Las Vegas with friends.
They gambled, drank bloody marys at Guy Fieri’s bar, and met up with another couple on Sunday night to watch Jason Aldean perform for the final show of the Route 91 Harvest music festival.
“Why are there fireworks?”
“All four of us decided to get up close to the stage, which isn’t usually my thing, because I’m not a huge crowd person,” Katie said. “Someone took our picture right before we decided to walk up. I specifically remember saying, ‘We need a picture of the four of us before we walk up.’ I don’t know why we decided why we just needed that picture.”
At 10:03 p.m., Wayne Woodall used his cellphone to take a photo of Aldean.
At 10:05 p.m., gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire with a military-grade, semi-automatic rifle from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort.
“The first thing I remembered was all four of us looking at each other and asking, ‘Why are there fireworks?’ My husband said, ‘They’re not fireworks, hit the ground. They’re not fireworks.’ And so all four of us instinctively dove to the ground,” Katie Woodall said.
“I remember saying, ‘We need to get out of here,’ so we started to run and then another round started.”
The couple hit the ground as another volley of gunfire erupted.
“I always thought when you got hit by a bullet, that it’d be hot or an immense amount of pain and it wasn’t like that at all,” Katie said. “I didn’t know for sure until the second round ended and when I got up to run again, I couldn’t make my leg move.”
Wayne Woodall positioned himself on top of his wife to shield her from further danger.
Together, they waited for medical help.
Soon, a stranger who said he was a veteran approached the couple to offer help.
The stranger Katie Woodall calls “a military man” insisted the couple move from the light to the shadows, where the gunman wouldn’t see them.
Woodall wanted to wait for paramedics; the stranger told her, correctly, that they wouldn’t be able to reach victims as long as the gunman was spraying the concert area with bullets.
Concertgoers created a barricade nearby, hiding behind overturned tables and tarps.
Her husband and the stranger carried Woodall to the makeshift fortress. Woodall saw a woman hiding nearby get shot in the neck. The helpful stranger then left the couple to tend to the more seriously wounded woman. As he left, the stranger told the Woodalls to keep moving toward one of the strip’s main streets.
It was all too much for Woodall, a preschool teacher, to handle.
“I was just so scared and at that point, I said to Wayne, ‘I can’t do this anymore. You just need to tell the boys that I love them,’” she said.
“My hero — my husband — grabbed me by the shirt and shook me and said, ‘I will not do that. You are going to tell the boys that you love them. You are not going to give up. You are going to get up and you are going to tell Keith and Noah that you love them, because this is not going to be the end of our story. You are not going to die here.’”
Within minutes, the Woodalls were helped by a woman who said she was a nurse. She used her red, white and blue bandana to wrap Katie Woodall’s wound.
As Woodall fought to stay conscious, she told the nurse about her sons: Keith, 19, serves in the Navy and is stationed in Cherry Point, North Carolina,; Noah, 17, plays on Ironwood Ridge’s football team.
The nurse asked if Noah had a football game the next Friday. When Woodall said yes, the nurse looked her in the eyes.
“You are going to get up and you are going to be in those stands,” she said.
The words were exactly what Woodall needed to hear.
She and her husband started moving again, and soon were inside a medical station that had been set up for the concert.
Woodall was given an IV and cursory medical care. Soon, they were on the move again. The station was shut down amid fears it would become a target for the gunman.
Woodall hobbled along as her husband carried her IV bag.
“We started to run towards the street and I was going into shock at that point and I was starting to collapse,” Woodall said.
A third stranger — this one a man who was shirtless and wore a cowboy hat — grabbed Woodall off the ground and carried her to a golf cart nearby.
He stared right into Woodall’s eyes and urged her to keep talking to him.
“Jokingly I said, ‘I can do that, because you have the most beautiful blue eyes.’
“My husband still teases me about that,” Woodall says. “My poor Wayne was in the back carrying the IV and I was staring at the cowboy with the blue eyes.”
Friday night lights
Woodall fights off the urge to second-guess the events that led them to Las Vegas and the concert.
Instead, she concentrates on the stranger who might have saved her by directing her out of the light, the nurse who encouraged her to think about her sons and going to another high school football game, and the cowboy with the strong arms and beautiful blue eyes.
“I don’t know these people’s names, but I remember their faces distinctly. … If I saw them in a crowd, I could pick them out. They’re seared into my memory,” she said.
“There was one evil man in that horrific period of time, but it was one evil man and there were countless people — four different people just in my own case that stopped running out of the venue that purposely changed their direction and came back and helped us. That one evil man can’t take away the amount of good and humanity and caring that I experienced that night.”
Woodall underwent surgery to repair damage and spent a few days in a Las Vegas hospital. The bullet from the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history remains lodged in Woodall’s oblique muscle. Removing it would cause too much damage.
Woodall is one of three known victims with Tucson ties. Savannah Sanchez, a 26-year old Desert View High School graduate, was wounded. UA graduate Christiana Duarte, 22, was killed.
Woodall used FaceTime to contact her sons, letting them know that she was safe and recovering.
She really didn’t feel like she was home until Oct. 13.
That’s when Woodall was back in the stands being a football mom, clanging her cowbell and holding a sign with Noah’s jersey number (40) in blue LED lights as she watched Ironwood Ridge beat Tucson High.
With his mom back in the stands, Noah gave his best effort in the game.
“She fought hard to be here to watch us play tonight,” he said, “so I had to fight hard.”
Woodall felt like she was exactly where she belonged.
“There’s just nothing like Friday night lights for a mom,” she said.
“That one evil man can’t take away the amount of good and humanity and caring that I experienced that night.” Katie Woodall, a victim in the Las Vegas shooting
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