Usually before your life changes forever, you have no idea it’s coming. Todd Blyleven can attest to that new reality.
For the last four years, he and his wife have attended a country music festival in Las Vegas. The last act – Jason Aldean – was performing Sunday night. Blyleven’s wife was nearby. He was dancing with one of their friends.
“Everybody was just having a great time,” says the Frisco resident who works in sports marketing. “Little kids were running around. Then that moment that it hit, it just ended it all.”
Blyleven, the son of Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven, can still hear the popping sounds in his mind nearly 48 hours later. He can see the images of the dead and wounded in his mind’s eyes.
Even now, he can hardly believe that he witnessed the nation’s deadliest mass shooting, a killing spree carried about by a 64-year-old real estate investor.
“People are falling right next to you,” he says. “The bullets are flying, and it was like the worst thing ever, but it was real.”
They dropped to the ground. The lights on stage went black. The band fled. He looked up and saw the flash of a muzzle coming from the Mandalay Bay hotel. Blyleven, 45, realized then that someone was shooting down onto the crowd.
In that moment, he kicked into survival mode, getting his wife, sister and brother-in-law to safety. But he knew he had go back in to help. Running away did not feel like an option.
“I didn't know what I was going to see,” he says. “I still thought that there was another shooter. I'm not armed, and I have no military experience.”
Blyleven, along with other concertgoers, began directing people to safety. He carried the wounded out. One was a young woman with a chest wound. He does not know if she survived.
Bullets continued to whiz around their heads. It seemed the barrage would never end. He saw bodies on the ground. He saw a husband crouched over his motionless wife.
People took off their boots so they could run faster. Others took off their shirts and put them over the bodies. Some stood there in shock.
Over and over, he ran back in to take the wounded to safety. Tired and still sore from the physical exertion, he says he would do it all again.
“There’s no way I would ever run,” he says. “I just can’t.”
Still, the 6-foot-4 former minor league ballplayer, he wishes that he could have done more. Blyleven witnessed countless acts of bravery of regular people, and that gives him hope.
“I think that’s the part that everybody has to know,” he says.
He is grateful to the unidentified man who sheltered his wife, his sister and brother-in-law, along with dozens of others, in a condo.
It wasn’t until Blyleven was on the plane Monday that he felt at ease, that he didn’t have to be on guard. It was good to be back home with his wife and kids.
“You definitely don’t forget this kind of thing,” he says. “It’s a teaching moment to my children that there are bad people in this world and that there are people that will want to harm you, but there’s also good, and there’s people that will be at your side trying to help.”
Friends have been calling to check on him. He is trying to get back to normal, but normal will never be the same.
“I'm so sorry and saddened for those that lost their lives,” Blyleven said. “I don't think I'm ever going to heal from this or get over this, but I'm just going to stay strong and continue to live in a positive and influential way and be the best husband and dad to my kids and to my wife.”