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Now the sisters were sharing the first music festival they’d gone to without a parent, and Aldean was on stage, crooning about people tougher than they look. “They ain’t seen the blood, sweat and tears it took to live their dreams,” Natalia sang along as she danced with friends, and Gianna, a dozen feet away, did the same with her boyfriend. About 15 minutes into the set, a few others in their group told Natalia that they were heading to the bathrooms, in the back of the venue, and asked if she needed to go, too. She did, but refused to miss a single song.

“I’ll just wait,” she said, “It’s okay.”, She stayed, swaying and laughing until 10:05 p.m., when the sound of pops from somewhere faraway cut through the music, “Did you hear that?” she asked a friend, Maybe, she thought, someone had set off fireworks, Natalia peered up above the stage and into the night sky, searching for bursts of light, All she saw was darkness, “Get down!” pointe shoe facts someone in the crowd shouted as Natalia watched Aldean rush offstage amid a second barrage..

She dropped to her knees and covered her head. A friend, Kaitlyn Burton, 19, huddled alongside, clutching Natalia’s hands. “What’s happening?” Natalia asked, unaware that, just in front of where she was hunkered, a half dozen people had already collapsed to the turf, struck by bullets fired from Mandalay Bay’s 32nd floor, 400 yards away. Natalia looked up, trembling as she searched for Gianna in the chaotic,howling mass of bodies crouched and crawling around her. Her twin was nowhere in sight.

“God, please help us,” she prayed, but now the wails grew louder, and the crackle drew closer, Then, suddenly, what felt like a steel medicine ball slammed into her right shoulder blade, striking with such force that she was shoved to the left, losing her grip on Kaitlyn’s hand, Natalia’s back stung, as though it had been lit ablaze, “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” she cried, The impact jolted her friend, too, Even before pointe shoe facts Kaitlyn saw the blood, she knew what that meant..

“Natalia’s been shot,” she yelled at her boyfriend, Riley Van Buskirk, who until then had remained standing, frozen in shock. He stared down at the hole in Natalia’s back, then stripped off his long-sleeved denim Wrangler shirt and wrapped it diagonally around her chest and back, hoping it would apply enough pressure to slow the bleeding. As he helped her up, Riley felt the cracked bones along Natalia’s shoulders grind against each other. He feared what the bullet had done inside her.

Overwhelmed, Natalia couldn’t process what was happening — the words that Kaitlyn had spoken or the burn now spreading from her back to her chest, And as she staggered pointe shoe facts to her feet, Natalia still didn’t see Gianna, Had her twin been shot, too?, Then came more gunfire, “Run!” Kaitlyn hollered, At that moment, Shae, the daughter of the FBI agents, was already sprinting with her friend Delaney toward a row of outdoor beer vendors, When they reached them, the girls dove to the ground, cowering just beneath a purple billboard that overlooked Las Vegas Boulevard, “LIVE MUSIC,” it advertised, with an arrow pointing back toward the ongoing massacre behind them..

Shae, who suspected it was gunfire as soon as she heard it, had immediately grabbed her friend’s arm and begun pushing through the crowd. She decided that fleeing toward the venue’s rear or east-side exits, along with thousands of other people, would leave the girls too exposed. Instead, Shae headed toward the nearest cover on the venue’s western edge. Now, with bullets spraying overhead, they were trapped. Shae pressed her cellphone against her ear. “Mom,” she said, “someone is shooting into the crowd.”.

“Are you sure?” asked Elena, who was in her bedroom, about to go to sleep, “Yes, I’m sure.”, Then, what sounded to Elena’s trained ear like machine-gun fire exploded through the pointe shoe facts phone’s speaker, Stay calm, her mom told her, Stay calm, Elena, voice quavering, asked whether they could make it to Shae’s car, parked over the fence and across the street at Mandalay Bay, No, Shae said, because she thought the shots might be coming from that direction, The girls knew they had to make a choice: Stay put and risk a gunman finding them, or move and risk being sniped out in the open..

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