As terrified concertgoers in Las Vegas fled automatic gunfire, California mom Debby Allen was doing the unthinkable: Trying to claw her way back into the carnage.
Allen, 49, had been pulled out of the Route 91 Harvest massacre after a woman to her left got shot.
Her Navy veteran son was still inside. She didn’t yet know that he was dead.
“I desperately wanted to go back in to find him. Nobody would let me go back in, they were pulling me away. I kept screaming, ‘My son! My son!’ But they said, ‘You can’t go back into the gunfire,'” Allen, who lives in Corona, Calif., told the Daily News.
“It was horrible. I couldn’t keep my feet underneath me. I kept collapsing. I just wanted to go back in so badly. But people were jumping over everything to get out,” she said.
Allen was in Vegas with son Chris Roybal to help celebrate his 29th birthday next week.
They went for a $500 dinner on Thursday and were hanging out by the pool earlier Sunday before heading back to their rooms at the Mandalay Bay to take pre-concert naps.
Allen said she woke up later than expected. Her son said by phone that he’d tried to wake her but figured they could meet inside.
Roybal departed the hotel first with some firefighter friends.
When Allen arrived at the concert after him, she sent a message to meet up. “Baby, where are you? Send me your location,” her text to Roybal read.
Because they had different model cell phones, the location sharing didn’t work, she said.
Allen took a picture of her position near the left side of the stage and sent it. Before she got a response, bullets started raining down. She first thought they were firecrackers.
Soon, she figured out it was gunfire.
“It was so many rounds, so many rounds. It wouldn’t stop,” she said.
“I laid on top of my friend until we got up and started running. A guy kept pulling me away,” she said.
When she realized she was leaving without Roybal, she tried to turn back but couldn’t.
She said a lady named Tina ushered her and about a dozen others into a room at the Desert Rose.
“I got too crazy. I couldn’t stay there. I could feel something was wrong. I had to get back,” Allen said.
A few hours later, she finally heard from her daughter that one of the firefighters with Roybal had reported the worst.
“He said he rendered first aid but saw the life go out of my son. I wouldn’t believe it, but I got confirmation today. The coroner told me. It sounds like he got shot pretty quickly,” Allen said. “I feel like I’m living in a nightmare, I want to wake up so badly.”
Allen’s soft voice trailed off as she recalled the incredible bond she shared with her first-born son.
“We were best friends. I don’t know how I’m going to live my life without him. I don’t know what my life looks like now,” she said.
She recalled Roybal’s fun-loving personality.
“He was the most funny, amazing guy ever. He loved karaoke and all types of music. He had a knack for singing Spanish love songs. He loved to watch chick flicks with me,” she said.
Allen said Roybal served in the Navy from 2005 until 2012, spending part of that time in Afghanistan.
“I got him home safe from Afghanistan and never thought I would have to worry about losing him again. He used to tell me stories about how scary it was. He was in two gun battles where he thought he wouldn’t make it back home,” she said.
“I was so proud to be his mom. He made me feel so happy,” she said.
In a chilling Facebook post over the summer, Roybal recalled the feeling of being shot at in Afghanistan.
“What’s it like to be shot at? It’s a nightmare no amount of drugs, no amount of therapy and no amount of drunk talks with your war veteran buddies will ever be able to escape,” he wrote.
A longtime friend of Royabl’s, who said the two joined the Navy together when they were “just boys,” posted a grieving goodbye to his buddy on Facebook.
“It breaks my heart and infuriates me that a veteran can come home from war unharmed and events like these occur,” Matthew Austin wrote. “Shipmate you were taken much to soon … Rest easy friend. You have been relieved and we have the watch.”
Send a Letter to the Editor