By Sue Pascoe
When former Palisadian Alex Zorensky attended the Las Vegas Route 91 Festival on October 1, little did he know that the concert would end with 57 people dead and 546 injured.
He did not know that the Las Vegas shooting would be one of the deadliest mass shootings committed by an individual in the history of the United States—and that later he would be called a hero.
San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner John McMahon honored Zorensky on December 8 with a Lifesaving Award for his actions at the Route 91 Festival.
Zorensky’s heroic work resulted in Sergeant Brad Power being transported to the hospital immediately after the massacre.
“Your proficient actions were vital in saving Brad’s life,” McMahon said in explaining the honor.“ Thank you for your bravery and dedication to helping others.”
“I’m excited about the award,” Zorensky told the News, “but it’s one that I never wanted to win, and hopefully no one else will ever have to go through this, too.”
Zorensky had attended all three days of the festival, which attracted about 22,000 people, because “country music is my favorite thing on the planet.” He was a fan of Eric Church and Jason Aldean, and both were going to perform.
On the third night about 10 p.m., Aldean was on stage at the concert grounds owned by MGM Resorts International.
Zorensky said that for most of the festival, he was to the right side of the stage listening to music, dancing and just having fun with friends and other country-western lovers.
He had just moved to the left side of the stage, when he heard shots. He, like everyone near him, thought it was fireworks. He remembers saying “just calm down, relax,” and helping people who tripped as they started to run. But, when he saw a girl being carried out, he knew it was gunshots, not fireworks.
The shooter, Stephen Paddock, was firing from his 32nd-floor suite in the Mandalay Bay Hotel that overlooked the concert grounds.
In a story for AwesomenessTV, Zorensky wrote: “I ran towards the only cover I could find, which was a metal fence. I turned to my right and saw a girl who was shot. I started yelling to people around me, “Are you shot? Are you hurt?”
Many people had just frozen and were sitting against the fence. I said,“ If you’re not hurt and you’re not shot, get up and run straight out back.”
But then, he didn’t follow his own advice. Instead, he ran back to the right side of the stage, which was the perfect target for the shooter, who was firing out of his window.
Why did he return to the stage? “Those were friends and family that needed help,” Zorensky told the News on December 7.
He saw an EMT run onto the field with a first-aid backpack and although he had never been trained, he asked to help. The medic handed him his walkie-talkie and said, “Let’s just identify people who are still alive.” (Zorensky had lost his phone during the chaos.)
By then, the shooting had subsided. “We started grabbing people and seeing who was still alive and who needed assistance,” Zorensky said in the Awesomeness story. “The EMT was triaging people and then a guy showed up with these metal gates.
“We started loading people onto the gates (makeshift stretchers) and running to move them first into the House of Blues bar, which was a covered bar [behind the Mandalay], before bringing them to the street where they would have a chance at getting space in an ambulance.”
On a trip into the House of Blues, Zorensky came across Sergeant Brad Power, who was badly injured with a gunshot wound. He told Brad’s wife, “If he wants any chance he has to get to a hospital” and with help carried him on a grate to the street.
When Zorensky returned a second time with more injured, Brad, a 22-year veteran, was still on the street waiting to be transported. Zorensky spotted a woman he knew, Angel, and she went and got her truck. Brad and another woman were loaded into the truck and Angel followed ambulances to Sunrise Hospital.
Once there, the hospital staff was over- whelmed with the injured, so Zorensky found a gurney and helped take the wounded inside.
When traffic eased, Zorensky and Angel drove back to the House of Blues to see if they could aid anyone else, but “everyone was either deceased or helped,” said Zorensky, who took a man home to his Las Vegas apartment because he had no place to go.
Zorensky’s brother, Seth, had not attended the concert and tried calling his brother once the news about the Vegas shooter was broadcast, but received no response. He called their parents, Elliot and Jodi, in Pacific Palisades and told them he couldn’t reach Alex.
The parents, in shock and disbelief, started watching the news on television.
Not until Alex Zorensky was in the back of the pickup on the way to the hospital that he was able to borrow a phone to call his parents.
Days later, Zorensky was able to connect with both Brad and the woman he had helped take to the hospital. The woman had a gunshot wound through her chest, two broken vertebrae, broken ribs and a collapsed lung, but she was going to survive.
On his Facebook page, Zorensky wrote: “I worked hand in hand with people I never met, and I never knew their names. They were police, paramedics, firefighters, military, concert staff, men and women. All of us had the same instinct; these people need help. “I now struggle not knowing if the countless people we carried out on metal fencing made it. More friends than I even thought I had reached out to me. So, so many people were not that lucky. Some will never receive a response: some of us will never know if the people we helped made it or perished.”
Reflecting afterwards, he told the News: “Country-western music lovers are an awe- some group of humans: everyone there was first responder, military, law enforcement, firefighters—all there to enjoy the concert.”
Now, two months later, Zorensky is still dealing with the aftermath of the trauma. “I’m definitely lucky to be alive,” he said. “It’s definitely a process to a readjust to a new normal. We [survivors] have a long road, but we have the love and support of family and friends.”
He has already attended a concert, “because everyone feels like family.” But Zorensky says his life has changed, that he thinks about things differently than he did before that night.
He has helped plant trees and construct the Las Vegas Healing Garden, which will be maintained by the City of Las Vegas and is dedicated to the victims of the event. On the Garden Facebook page, it states, “It is the hope that this garden, created by the community for the community, will provide a place for the community to heal.”
“I was definitely there for a purpose,” Zorensky told the News.
(Alex Zorensky grew up in Pacific Palisades and co-owned the Palisades Pit Stop, a car detailing business, with his brother Seth. They moved to Las Vegas two years ago in January and started a new business, LSC Destruction, which destroys seized firearms for law enforcement officials. Zorensky said he commuted back and forth until the sale of their Palisades business was final in October 2016.)