Route 91 Harvest festival worker: It was supposed to be ‘the best job on the Strip’

When “Mc” LaPlaca got a job as a bar back, running supplies between the alcohol booths at the three-day Route 91 Harvest country music festival, the Las Vegas resident thought she had hit the jackpot.

  • Las Vegas resident Mc LaPlaca, who worked as a bar back at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, reflects her experience during Sunday’s mass shooting as she visits a memorial site in Las Vegas, Nev. on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 when a gunman opened heavy fire on them during the music festival on Oct. 1. (Photo by Rachel Luna, Orange Country Register/SCNG)

    Las Vegas resident Mc LaPlaca, who worked as a bar back at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, reflects her experience during Sunday’s mass shooting as she visits a memorial site in Las Vegas, Nev. on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 when a gunman opened heavy fire on them during the music festival on Oct. 1. (Photo by Rachel Luna, Orange Country Register/SCNG)

  • Las Vegas resident Mc LaPlaca, who worked as a bar back at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, and is still wearing its wristband, looks at photos she took during festival and reflects her experience during Sunday’s mass shooting as she visits a memorial site in Las Vegas, Nev. on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 when a gunman opened heavy fire on them during the music festival on Oct. 1. (Photo by Rachel Luna, Orange Country Register/SCNG)

    Las Vegas resident Mc LaPlaca, who worked as a bar back at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, and is still wearing its wristband, looks at photos she took during festival and reflects her experience during Sunday’s mass shooting as she visits a memorial site in Las Vegas, Nev. on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 when a gunman opened heavy fire on them during the music festival on Oct. 1. (Photo by Rachel Luna, Orange Country Register/SCNG)

  • Las Vegas resident Mc LaPlaca, who worked as a bar back at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, and is still wearing its wristband, looks at photos she took during festival and reflects her experience during Sunday’s mass shooting as she visits a memorial site in Las Vegas, Nev. on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 when a gunman opened heavy fire on them during the music festival on Oct. 1. (Photo by Rachel Luna, Orange Country Register/SCNG)

    Las Vegas resident Mc LaPlaca, who worked as a bar back at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, and is still wearing its wristband, looks at photos she took during festival and reflects her experience during Sunday’s mass shooting as she visits a memorial site in Las Vegas, Nev. on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 when a gunman opened heavy fire on them during the music festival on Oct. 1. (Photo by Rachel Luna, Orange Country Register/SCNG)

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“It’s the best job on the Strip,” LaPlaca said Wednesday, standing near an informal memorial at Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue, five miles from Las Vegas Village, where the festival was held.

Managers told her that 3,000 people had applied to work at the festival. The tips are good, as was the country music, for a fan like LaPlaca.

And then Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino resort late Sunday night. Paddock killed 58 people and wounded almost 500 more with rifle fire.

“It’s an outside venue. There’s no roof. There was no, ‘Oh, I’m in a safe place,’ because it was all battleground. You could maybe go lower than the next person, but that’s just how it is, I guess.”

Before the violence erupted, LaPlaca never thought of the festival as a dangerous place.

“I didn’t expect, in America, to see the things I’ve seen in other places,” said LaPlaca, a Navy veteran.

People around the United States and the world listened to the mass shooting unfold via online police scanners, but being there, seeing and hearing what she saw Sunday night, LaPlaca said, was different.

“If you’re right next door, it’s not like you can put a filter on it,” she said.

Although she escaped physically uninjured, she’s not unscathed.

“I wake up and go, ‘What the hell?’” LaPlaca said, her voice trembling slightly. “I don’t know if I’m ever going to recover. OK, I’ll move on, but the stuff I’ve seen, I’m probably not going to be the same for a long time.

“There really isn’t much of an escape. I may have gotten out. The people with me may have gotten out. But we live here. We work there. My regular job is next door to there. There’s not a day where I’m not going to wake up and be, like, ‘Damn, this (stuff) happened.’

“It sucks for everyone who was in attendance, but people who live here, if you survived, and you live here, there’s no escape for you.”

LaPlaca said she still loves her job and the people she works with and she’s determined not to let Paddock take that away from her. Four days later, on her right wrist, she’s still wearing the cloth wristbands that granted her employee-level access to all areas of the festival.

“I’m not going to let no stranger try to kill my future, my joy, whatever,” she said. “But at the same time, I don’t know, you know?”

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