Exclusive: Two Women Share How They Survived the Country's Largest Massacre


"I just cannot get the image of the terror on the woman's face out of my mind," Lyft moonlighter and local agency Project Manager, Wendy Burney said in relation to one of the victim reactions during the country's largest shooting to date. I have never seen such a look of terror."

A Las Vegas resident since 2003, Wendy Burney echoed the sentiment of so many following this week's unimaginable massacre at Mandalay Bay and the Harvest 91 Festival.

Having just dropped passengers off near the 22,000-person event, the mother of three shared that she was initially more confused than scared when the first shots rang out.

"It took me a while to realize it was gun fire, just like everyone else."

T-shirts turned tourniquets for bullet holes in the McDonald's parking lot across from Mandalay Bay as Wendy Burney was detained with other attendees by SWAT until approximately 3 AM.

"The police, SWAT, military and early responders were absolutely incredible," she adds. "In a time of so much unrest, not one single public officer was anything but compassionate, calm, skilled and respectful. There were no condescending or apathetic tones. We were all just humans."

Photo Courtesy of Katie Berney

Meanwhile, fellow Lyft Driver, Katie Berney, (no relation) was experiencing a very different set of events unfold around her. Also dropping passengers at Mandalay Bay, she tried her best to flee the scene as she too realized that the "fireworks" were actually gunfire, and she was right in the middle of it all.

"I was already nervous, shaking and in shock and I wanted to leave. A police officer stopped me and said: 'back up, back up!'" says Burney who made a U-turn to accommodate the officer and four bloody women jumped into her van. Despite there only being one wound on the ladies they were soaked with the blood of other attendees. "I felt bad for the wounded, and the family for the wounded, but the women with me were afraid and begged me not to stop any more (for anyone else), and so I did not and we just focused on escaping." Says Berne, "Honestly its a bad nightmare for me, when I close my eyes and I see a (certain) guy asking me for a ride. It is like a movie and it's really happening and I am so sorry (for not stopping)."

Katie, also a mother, says she needs a sleeping aide to even attempt sleep at this point and is anxious to talk to anyone associated with the event in hopes of finding peace or serenity, and a way to move forward with her life. The sounds of screams, the shots (including a nine-minute straight round) and the chaos seem to be some of the hardest portions of the massacre to forget.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Jones

"I can still hear it all in my ears, and in my mind," Burney concludes. "There are so many who have lived much more tragic versions of this event and night, you almost feel guilty even feeling the trauma if you were not one of the fathers laying on top of his children to shield them, or a surgeon up for over 24 straight hours dealing with the 515 hospitalized and wounded. And yet, this happened to all of us, everyone has been affected in some way by this really delusional man, and it is haunting. How do we all move on?"

In a city known for celebrity chefs, smokey casinos and bright lights, it is easy to forget that Las Vegas is a community filled with 2.1 million residents. 2.1 million teachers, kids, employees, companies, churches and more.

So many things went right on a night filled with so much wrong. The emotional intelligence of officers and police on the scene was just incredible. Their calm demeanors and quick reactions fostered a sense of organized response amongst the chaos of blood, death and confusion.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Jones

It wasn't just police officers there to mitigate stress. The Shell station on Las Vegas Blvd. and Mandalay Bay Drive handed out free waters to all who entered, strangers helping strangers in the most intimate of ways. Random drivers took the wounded, children and visitors to local hospitals.

Uber offered free rides, and Lyft offered bonuses to all of the Las Vegas drivers who worked this week despite the fact that tourism came to a screeching halt. The Clark County School District Superintendent excused absences from schools, calling parents to offer support while Evel Pie supplied free pizzas to officers and first responders working round the clock to make our city safe again. Blood bank donation lines started at 3 AM on the morning of the shooting, with Las Vegas residents ready to offer whatever they could to help those in need. And for those affected psychologically, MGM Resorts is offering free therapy to those who attended and were affected by the shooting.

The stage and stage lights at the Harvest 91 Festival remain untouched and fully assembled. A silent reminder that we will remain #VegasStrong.

While we may not understand the motivations of the shooter Stephen Paddock and why he reaped so much havoc on Americas glittering city. It is important we have more than just prayers during this time and that we work to initiate change to stop tragedies like this from happening.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Jones

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Patriarchy Stress Disorder is A Real Thing and this Psychologist Is Helping Women Overcome It

For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.

As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.

Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.

What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein

This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.

Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.

"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.

Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.

In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.

"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."