In her Las Vegas hospital bed Tuesday morning, Samantha Faranda was groggy from surgery to remove a bullet from her right arm and insert a titanium plate in place of shattered bone.
She was clear, however, in her recollection of the events two nights earlier, when a sniper at the Mandalay Bay hotel fired bullets into the crowd at a country music festival as headliner Jason Aldean performed.
Faranda, a 26-year-old Las Vegas resident who was born in the Bronx, and a group of friends were among more than 22,000 people at the concert when Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire, killing 58 people and wounding more than 500.
“We were just there and enjoying ourselves, and all of a sudden we heard popping and it sounded like fireworks,” Faranda said. “Then the sounds came again and everyone started running when they realized it was shooting. We started dropping to the floor so they wouldn’t hit us.”
But Faranda couldn’t avoid the barrage.
“I was shot three times — twice in the arm and once in my right side,” Faranda said by telephone from Sunrise Hospital, where she was recovering after surgery. “My arm went numb and my wrist was just limp. I shattered a bone in my arm.”
Faranda said she and her friends were a few feet away from the exit and she remembers a totally chaotic scene of people “screaming and crying and everyone running everywhere.”
Faranda got out with the help of a couple of Good Samaritans.
“Two gentlemen got me outside and carried me to the ambulance, and my friend, a firefighter, was there to help me,” she said.
Faranda’s aunt, Connie Giordano Cortese, 66, of Long Island, said in an interview Tuesday that she learned about her niece after seeing the attack on television Monday morning and getting a call minutes later from her son, Greg Cortese, a lawyer who lives in Las Vegas.
“He said she had been shot,” Giordano Cortese said.
Faranda, a property manager, is the daughter of Giordano Cortese’s youngest sister, Gina Giordano Jones, of Cayucos, California. When Giordano Cortese heard her niece had been shot, she at first suspected the worst.
“I died inside,” she said. “I thought she was dead. I went to that dark place.”
Greg Cortese, 45, said in an interview Tuesday that he raced to the hospital with his wife after his Aunt Gina told him about Faranda.
“Sam was intubated when we got there, so that was hard to see,” Cortese said. “A couple of her friends were there. Once . . . [the gunman] started firing, the group of friends just scattered and lost contact with each other and Sam ended up at the hospital.”
Another person in Faranda’s group was grazed on the back of the leg by a bullet, he said.
Cortese said he is thankful it wasn’t worse, and he was touched by the heroism involved in helping Faranda and others who were shot.
“There were amazing acts of heroism,” Cortese said. He said someone else had taken their belt off to make a tourniquet for Faranda.
Still, the fact that someone in his family could be shot and be part of such a tragic story is what sticks with Cortese most, he said.
“Now a tragedy that has happened all over the country hits home,” Cortese said.