ROGER BLOSS, A veteran hotelier in Las Vegas, is proud of his staff at the Americas Best Value Inn on East Tropicana Avenue, who aided hundreds of people fleeing the Oct. 1 mass shooting.
He is also grateful his children survived the massacre.
Bloss and his family live in Las Vegas. His daughter Natalee, 21, and son Ben, 17, were among the 20,000 people attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival, an outdoor country music concert targeted by the shooter, Stephen Paddock.
Ben, a high school junior, has a school-night curfew of 10 p.m. Just before headliner Jason Aldean came on stage and eight minutes before the shooting started, Ben told his sister he had better head home.
Natalee stayed behind with a friend. When Paddock took aim from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel 1,000 feet away, the young woman and her friend hid inside a refrigerated beer truck.
During a lull in the shooting, they climbed a fence to get away. Natalee had back surgery last year and making it over the 10-foot-high barrier would have been impossible if not for the aid of others who also were fleeing. She broke her finger, but she is not complaining, said her father.
“She saw things no young lady should ever have to see,” Bloss said about the bloody carnage, but she also witnessed amazing acts of bravery and selflessness.
Police officers and other first responders instructed concertgoers and others along the Las Vegas Strip to run east as rumors flew that a bomb was at the nearby Luxor hotel and casino and other shooters were at MGM Grand and New York-New York hotel and casino.
“People fled in the direction of the McCarran International Airport and our hotel was in their path,” Bloss said. Natalee was among the estimated 200 people who crowded into the hotel lobby and back office. “We have had that hotel since the year Natalee was born. She grew up at that hotel. She found a sense of comfort that night.”
She was not alone with that feeling.
On duty was night manager Marcque Davis, who heard the sirens and quickly learned about “the despair,” said Bloss. He printed out key cards before most people showed up. He got out water and snacks, boosted the Wi-Fi and turned on the TV so people could stay updated on the event.
Another staff member, Brittany Harvey, arrived to work early and helped guests find their rooms and provided anything else they needed. “A lot of people lost their cell phones and other personal items,” Bloss said. “A lot of pets went missing, too.”
Although the people had rooms elsewhere in town, emergency officials had blocked off the strip and other areas, which made it impossible for them to get back to their hotels. Plus, no one knew if the carnage was over.
The ABVI is an exterior corridor hotel with several exterior security cameras mounted throughout property. General Manager Jake Leclaire has remote access to the cameras. He watched the activity and offered guidance to Davis and Harvey over the phone.
Some of the booked rooms were vacant at the time and Davis allowed the shaken concert goers to use those rooms as well. Whether the room was occupied or not, guests checked in before the shooting willingly shared their space with others.
Bloss said that has touched him the most. “People allowed others to sleep in their rooms with them. It has restored my faith in people and in the United States of America.”
Bloss is co-founder of ABVI’s parent company Vantage Hospitality Group, which dissolved in September 2016 when Red Lion Hotels Corp. acquired it. Bloss is president of global development for RLHC, based in Denver. Bloss has a hectic travel schedule. “It’s amazing I was home that night,” he said.
Since Oct. 1, ABVI and most other hotels in Las Vegas are filled. Family members of the wounded who are hospitalized and emergency personnel are staying for free. “The outpouring of generosity from the hospitality community is amazing,” Bloss said.
At his hotel is a spot where people can post photos of missing pets and lost-and-found notes. It has also set up a phone hotline.
Bloss credits his staff’s training for being able to stay level headed and provide help and protection on the night the shooting. “In this day and age, you have to have staff well trained. You have to have emergency plans in place.”
Operating a secure hotel also is a mandate. Policies that require guests to show ID and a valid credit card are important. So are cameras with remote monitoring. “We have an emergency plan and our staff executed on it. We frequently re-emphasize the importance of safety and security.
“You can’t prepare for the worst mass shooting in American history, but you can prepare your staff to facilitate aid for guests.”
Natalee and Ben have returned to school. Natalee is a student at the UNLV hospitality school, where classes are limited. Both schools have counselors on hand and have orchestrated or encouraged students to take part in fund raisers to aid victims or support emergency workers. “They are doing a really phenomenal job,” Bloss said of school officials, noting his son’s volleyball team has resumed practice. “A couple of his teammates were also at the concert.”
Natalee “is taking it day by day,” Bloss said.
She attended a benefit Wednesday night at a local country music club. On Thursday, Bloss invited her to walk with him through a local gaming convention. “I wanted to get her out in public, to feel comfortable and secure again. The adage that life has to go on, is true, but you have to let people heal in their own way. Part of the process is allowing people to find own comfort level.”