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Santa Ana high school senior wounded in Vegas recounts the terror

Santa Ana high school senior Tiffany Huizar was among those wounded in Las Vegas at the Route 91 Harvest Festival Sunday.
Santa Ana high school senior Tiffany Huizar was among those wounded in Las Vegas at the Route 91 Harvest Festival Sunday.
Frank Stoltze/KPCC

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Imagine your big sister buying you tickets to go hear your favorite country music stars in Las Vegas. Imagine the two of you getting split up as someone starts shooting.

That's what happened to Tiffany Huizar, 18, a Segerstrom High School senior who could only run from the bullets landing around her.

"It just seemed like they were getting closer and closer," Huizar told KPCC as she sat in a chair inside her room at University Medical Center Wednesday in Las Vegas.  She still wore her Route 91 Harvest Festival wristband from Sunday night's concert where a sole gunman killed 58, many from California.

Like everyone else, Huizar, who was near the stage, couldn't figure out the location of the gunmen – it seemed like there was more than one.

"It sounded like they were on the floor with us," she said at one point. "It seemed like it was coming from a helicopter above us," she said later.

As she ran, Huizar would periodically lay down on the ground – "because I saw other people doing it."

"Everybody was super frantic."

She ran down a street, possibly Las Vegas Boulevard, then looked down at herself.

"I looked under my shirt because it was all bloody," she said. "I realized I had been shot in my stomach."

She was also shot in her elbow. An EMT helped her to an ambulance.

Huizar called her mother, who had come to Vegas with her two daughters but did not attend the concert. Her mother and sister declined to be interviewed.

Her mother called her father with the news.

"I got a phone call and my wife was trying to sugarcoat it," said Ismael Huizar. "When she finally told me, I was very angry."

Then Huizar, 51, got a call from his daughter.

"She goes, 'Dad, I’m OK. I’m OK, Daddy, but you can’t get crazy out here,'" he recalled. It almost immediately calmed him — "just hearing her voice."

He caught an early morning flight from Los Angeles International Airport on Monday to be at his daughter’s bedside. Tiffany Huizar recalled those early hours in the hospital hallways.

"There were beds and beds of people" wounded, she said.

Wednesday, they received a surprise visit from President Trump, who traveled to Las Vegas. She was one of a handful of patients with whom he met.

"He asked me about the concert and what happened. He asked about my injuries," she said. "He was very comforting, like a father figure."

"People have negative views about him and what he posts on Twitter," she said. "He was absolutely a different guy today."

Doctors removed nine inches of Huizar’s intestines when they extracted the bullet from her stomach, her father said. But she’s expected to make a full recovery.

Tiffany Huizar still wants to study kinesiology when she graduates from high school and eventually become an athletic trainer. But she knows she faces a challenge when she leaves the hospital which could be as early as Friday.

"I know as soon as I get out of the hospital, I am going to feel very different, and very scared," she said.

Her father can’t leave Las Vegas fast enough. "I'm not going to find answers here," he said. "I don’t want answers here."

More importantly, he wants to look to the future. "I got to move forward," he said. Then he looked over at his daughter. "I got to move her forward."