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My Brother Was Murdered & My Sister Disappeared—Then I Heard the Gunshots Ring Out in Las Vegas on That Fateful Night…

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked how I am able to get out of bed every morning. I would like to say it all started with a DNA test, a Mother’s Day gift. But it really started with the reason I took the test in the first place.

Ten years prior, my brother was murdered. That was and still is, the hardest period of my life. He was walking on the beach with his best friend and was attacked by three men. He died instantly when a violent punch extended his neck. You think about your grandparents dying, you think about your parents dying even. But you never think about your sibling dying. It killed my soul telling people my younger brother was lost to murder.

Courtesy of Jennifer McGrath

I couldn’t see how I would ever get through it. It was the first time I felt genuine shock. That fuzzy-headed melancholy where you feel completely outside your body. Unfortunately, that would become a familiar feeling.

I didn’t just grieve and find my way back to life. My brother had three perpetrators, which meant years of litigation, separate hearings, motions, preliminary hearings, arraignments. It was years of meeting face-to-face with the men who beat my brother to death. I saw them on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. I fought hard though.

I enrolled in a local college and received my associate’s degree. I took every criminal justice course I could take. I wanted to understand every step of this process. I am proud of what I did to fight for my brother, although justice never came.

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Courtesy of Jennifer McGrath

My brother had found the love of his life. Just [nine] days before his passing, he was trying to conceive. One of the hardest parts of his death was dealing with the reality I would never get to be an aunt. My desire to be one is what pushed me to take the 23andMe DNA test.

I never knew who my father was. My mother had me at 19 and didn’t remember his name. My whole life, it was just my mother, my brother, and I. When I took the test, I wasn’t looking for anyone but potential nieces and nephews. I wanted that in my life.

Within hours, and lots of research, I found my biological dad, his daughter, and her four children. I also found out my dad had put a son up for adoption in 1970, so I have a brother out there somewhere as well.

I was finally going to be an aunt! I drove a few hours out to meet my dad and extended family. They were nothing but welcoming.

Courtesy of Jennifer McGrath

My sister, however, had some issues. She was a homeless addict that had lost custody of her kids. I paid for her trip to Reno, where our father lived. In September of 2017, my sister walked into my hotel room. We both cried. If I had randomly seen her walking on the street one day, I would have known she was my sister. We loved each other instantly.

For three wonderful weeks, I got to know my sister better. She had the most amazing heart but was a traumatized soul with a rough childhood. She had never overcome the obstacles in her path, but she wanted to be better. She wanted to get her kids back, so I did what no one else would do. I took her home with me.

I wanted to meet my nieces and nephews. I learned all about them, their names, their likes, their dislikes. I couldn’t wait to meet them. But, suddenly, my sister left without a trace. She couldn’t get clean.

That weekend, me [sic] and my husband were headed to Las Vegas for our annual trip, to yes, the Route 91 Country concert. Singing and dancing along with Jason Aldean, we heard the pops start. I looked at my husband; he told me it was fireworks.

Courtesy of Jennifer McGrath

I looked up in the sky and saw white confetti, which made the fireworks idea more plausible. I now know the confetti was the result of bullets shredding the white canopy behind us.

Everyone went down. I curled up next to my husband on the grass and told him I was scared. He told me not to worry, that it was just fireworks. I looked over his shoulder and saw a girl with a gunshot wound in her head. Her lifeless body was propped up against a man’s legs as if she had fallen in front of him. I looked to my right and another girl was being given CPR.

Shock took over. My husband pulled me up. It was time to go. He grabbed my hand. Everything fell out of my purse and I could feel him yanking on my arm as I reached down to grab my wallet. We ran about 5 feet until my husband stopped short. A girl lay in front of us. Dying, dead, I didn’t know. The bullets started again.

He laid next to her on one side; I laid on the other. We laid with her on the field through all of the reloading, shooting, reloading, shooting. I just wanted it to stop. I kept saying to myself, ‘I shouldn’t be here, I have kids. I shouldn’t be here, I have kids.’ I looked out across the field and there was no more crowd. There was nothing but bodies. We were the only targets left. Every time the shots restarted, I braced myself to be shot. I waited for the bullets to enter my body. Then it stopped.

We spent the rest of that night carrying people out, putting people into cars, and sending them to the emergency room. Most of them were already dead. Somehow, hours later, we got back to our hotel. I sat on the bathroom floor for an hour, staring at my bloodstained hands and clothes, trying to process what had just happened to us. We drove home the next day.

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