by Dalisia Brye, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
Myron Howell is an African American who plays drums for Nashville’s country music superstar Jake Owens. And while there is rarity in that, this story does not chronicle that aspect of Howell’s journey.
Instead, this story accounts for the terror that Howell and about 22,000 others experienced on the evening of October 2 in Las Vegas at the annual Harvest Festival. Fifty-eight people did not survive the shooting rampage of 64-year old Steven Paddock, who killed himself after opening fire at 10:05 p.m. and also wounding 527 people.
A graduate of Germantown High School, Howell lives in Nashville. He and the Jake Owens crew had just finished their set at the country music festival when the night he now will “never forget” took a deadly turn.
“The night was beautiful. The show was great and we had just finished our set,” Howell said in an interview with The New Tri-State Defender. “Some of our crew members had decided to grab a bite at the Mandalay Bay (Resort and Casino), but I decided to hang out and watch my colleagues instead. I had just grabbed my drums and sat them off to the side and decided to grab a quick drink before watching Jason Aldean take the stage.
Howell had taken one sip of his drink before the unthinkable happened.
“Before I knew it, gunshots rang out. I immediately started grabbing people and placing them in between our tour bus. A young lady asked me if I was sure that it wasn’t just fireworks. I basically told her that I was from Memphis, and the sound was just too familiar.”
Reflecting on his whereabouts when the heavily armed Paddock started spraying the crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, Howell said, “We were so close … I could see some sort of light flashing every time shots rang out.
“It was like the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ We heard bullets flying above us, even hitting the tour bus. I never knew bullets actually ricocheted until that night.”
Authorities later determined that Paddock, a retired accountant who became a multimillionaire and gambler, had been buying weapons since 1982, including 33 in the past year.
Twelve of the rifles found in the luxury suite from which Paddock wreaked were modified with a “bump stock.” Such a device enables a gun to fire hundreds of rounds per minute.
“After everything was over, around five that morning, we had probably had one-hour of sleep when we were then released by Las Vegas Police and escorted to the safety zone,” Howell said. “It reminded me of the movie ‘Resident Evil.’ All the lights were shut off. It was dark and complete devastation everywhere. There were bodies lying in the street covered up as we walked past them.”
Giving credit to his mother for him having the wherewithal to remain calm, Howell shared how she had been a nurse at The Med, now Regional One Health.
“My mother always showed and talked to my siblings and I about certain things from the hospital. Although I never thought I would be in anything like this, my initial thought was just helping those around me.”
En route to the designated “safety zone,” Howell and those with him had to adjust their course.
“On the way there we were advised someone was running and then collapsed and died in someone’s front yard. We literally had seen the dead body in the front yard. The police informed us that the person had been shot. They immediately changed our route as we could no longer proceed to where we were headed. …
“The safety zone was a war zone,” he said. “Blood tracks were everywhere. People were in distress. At this point, the first thought in my mind was that I needed to be on a plane out of Vegas fast.”
When he and the crew finally arrived at the airport, they encountered what he described as a chaotic scene.
“I recall seeing people running onto the tarmac. It was really crazy. Everyone wanted to get away that bad.”
The Las Vegas Strip looked like a complete “Ghost Town,” he said.
“I’ve never seen Vegas like this. I usually travel often for leisure, but at this point and time Vegas for the Owens crew is definitely out of the question,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch,” Howell said.
“Everyone is still in disbelief about what happened. I’m just glad we made it out, but I’m definitely praying for those affected by this tragedy.”