One year ago today, Julie and Seth were sitting in the front bleachers by the Las Vegas music stage anticipating a fun night together and with friends.
Shortly after the music and singing started, the first shot came across. Seth thought it was a couple of guys being crazy in the parking lot. But then a few minutes went by and a second and third round of gunfire rang all around them.
“I knew it was bad,” said Seth. “Under the bleachers we hid for a while. We didn’t know how many were shooting, whether it was in the venue or outside. It didn’t stop. Over and over gunshots after gunshots.”
The shots seemed to get louder. And then it would stop. And then start again. After several minutes of what seemed like quiet, Seth and Julie decided to run.
While running across the stadium, Julie remembers a scene of chaos. People plowing through food vendors, chairs, tables, hot grills on the floor, people everywhere on the floor. Shoes, hats, purses. Blood.
“Once outside of the stadium, we ran down the street and into an employee entrance of a hotel,” explained Julie.
While they were running down the street Seth felt compelled to stop and pray with people and with Julie.
“I guess for me getting in there and seeing the sheer amount of fear and terror in people,” said Seth, “I just felt called to pray.”
In lock down at the hotel, Seth and Julie tried to help people around them as best they could. There was nothing to do but look around at everyone’s shocked faces and wonder ‘what just happened?’ At 4 am, Seth and Julie finally got the clear by law enforcement that it was safe to leave. They walked back to their hotel, packed up as fast as they could and went directly to the airport for home.
“We got to the airport, plugged our phones in and began to call our family,” said Seth. “How do I let everyone know I am alive? It was emotional.”
After getting home and reunited with their family, Julie’s shock set in and a wave of depression followed for a few months.
“I never dealt with depression,” shared Julie. “I was depressed to where I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to do anything. Not even with my kids.”
“It was hard for Seth because he couldn’t fix me.”
For Seth, the journey afterward looked different. Seth shared “I’m a people person. Always outgoing. But for the first couple of months after the shooting, it was like joy was sucked out of my personality.” For Seth, a new desire and conviction evolved into his heart. A bigger joy.
“What I did experience was a desire to share Jesus more fiercely. For them to have a true community and understanding of Jesus.”
“Now I’m not afraid of what someone might think of me when I talk about Jesus with them,” said Seth. “My younger days I hid from myself and played the “game”. I thought I needed to play this “game” of pretending I was someone that I was not.”
“Not anymore. I want people to know Jesus.”
Another big turning point for Seth was a conviction as a husband and as a father.
“I didn’t do a good job loving Julie through this nor before. Having a spouse who is deeply depressed is hard. I was quick to anger with my kids for a long time,” confessed Seth. “Now, I look at Julie and the kids and think ‘I could be gone’. I don’t want to be hard anymore but show them only grace, patience, and love.”
After months of counseling, being loved and nurtured by their church and by their City Group, tons of prayer, and countless moments of grace from Jesus, the Browns feel stronger.
“One day I literally was strong. I can’t explain it any other way,” shared Julie. “I don’t think that normally happens with depression, but for me it did.”
“Talking about the event is easy for me now,” shared Julie. “It actually feels healing every
single time I do. I get to look back in those moments of fear and see that even though there
was terror all around me, I was at peace. My eternity is secure. Of course I was scared, but it
wasn’t a fear of death… it was more a fear of the unknown. I get to look back and see how that
peace settled over me and know that God was with me through the hardest night of my life.”
Julie says that her interests and values have changed since the shooting and how she reacts to her children. What she put value in before the shooting seems novel and not important.
“My focus is diving into God’s Word,” shares Julie. “I never had that strong of a desire before. I just want more Jesus.”
Julie and Seth think that what happened last fall in Las Vegas was pure evil. Yet Jesus was there with them. It has now become an opportunity to share about Jesus to those around them.
“We have seen the ultimate evil in a person,” says Seth. “But our hope and prayer is that through our story, Julie and I can point others to Jesus.”
“We would never have chosen to experience this, but we wouldn’t change it. Through this we have learned to be grateful for everything in our lives.”