By Jack Meyer
Wall High School Class of 2008 graduate Kortney Spencer was attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 when disaster struck. A gunmen opened fire on the audience and Spencer was shot in her right leg. The response from her friends, family and even random strangers to the tragedy has been hard to believe as they have banded together, raising over $46,000 on an online campaign on the website “GoFundMe” to help aid her recovery.
Spencer grew up in Wall, going through Wall Public Schools, and the majority of her family still lives in New Jersey, as her little sister Kayli Godek is currently an eighth grader at Wall Intermediate School. After graduating Towson University, she moved to California where she finished her degree and is now a speech pathologist near Los Angeles. An avid supporter of country music, Spencer took a trip to see some of her favorite country artists at the music festival along with her boyfriend Dominic Rabanal and friend Kerrie Kendzierski. During the festival, she said she heard strange “popping noises” and the three began to walk away. A spray of bullets rained down and one struck Spencer in her left leg.
Unable to walk, Spencer was carried by her boyfriend and piled into a taxi with several other people in the back. She said the driver was hysterical as he drove the victims to Sunrise Hospital only minutes away from where the shooting took place.
“Once I got to the hospital, I felt so relieved,” Spencer said. “They brought me inside and I just thought I’m safe and going to be taken care of.”
Spencer described the scene inside the hospital as horrific where she joined many other victims sitting on the floor waiting for medical treatment.
“All of the beds were taken and I was put on the tile floor and left there for five hours without pain medication or any kind of medical attention,” Spencer said. “It was just this little hospital. I mean who would have ever thought they would have 500 patients? I don’t think any hospital is ready for that.”
After five hours, Spencer finally received pain medication and was told by a surgeon that she needed emergency surgery, but the surgeon didn’t return for four more hours.
“I’m sure she just got called into another surgery that was more life-threatening and I didn’t get operated on until early Monday morning,” Spencer said.
Spencer was diagnosed with a shattered tibia. After spending 11 days at the hospital in Las Vegas, she returned to her home in California where she currently remains on bedrest unable to get around on her own. Different members of her family have been staying with her periodically such as her parents. She will be periodically checking in with surgeons as she continues her recovery. The shooting has completely changed Spencer’s day-to-day life.
“I was never, ever home,” Spencer said. “I was that person who was just always on the go. So going from that kind of person to just being bedridden, it’s just a huge lifestyle change and just learning how to cope with that.”
Spencer participated in many activities such as yoga, surfing, snowboarding and going out for dinner with friends, all of which are put on hold in her current condition. Spencer has received a huge response from her friends, family and even complete strangers and the doctors are optimistic she can make a full recovery.
“It’s amazing to see how many people can come together and make such a big difference,” Spencer said. “Obviously family and friends [have helped], but also acquaintances and complete strangers and it’s just amazing that they would donate from their own pockets to somebody that they really don’t know at all. I think it’s really special and I think the feeling is unreal because you can’t imagine how many people are willing to help you.”
A GoFundMe.com campaign, started by Spencer’s sister, Jodi Spencer Goldberg, has raised almost $49,000 in donations to aid in Spencer’s recovery.
“You never think this kind of thing would and could happen to you,” Spencer said. “You read it in the newspaper and they’re happening all over the world, and then it happens to you and it really hits hard.
Many of the donations have come from the Wall community, and many students, teachers and Wall residents have been keeping Spencer in their thoughts, including teacher Mr. Joshua Tennant, who graduated from Wall with her in 2008.
“While I didn’t know Kortney that well, she had a reputation of being a kind, and caring person,” he said. “When you treat others as you'd like to be treated, people remember that. I'm sure for that reason, people will rise to the occasion and help support her as she recovers.”
Mr. Tennant also added that he believes a lot of times people don’t realize how widespread tragedies and other events like this tend to be. He said that many people will hear that things like this are not local and immediately shrug it off as not affecting them but, in reality, they are impacted.
“Kortney was a sweetheart,” said Wall English teacher Mr. Thomas Dill, who had Spencer in his English class both junior and senior year. “She was a really good kid, hard worker, very kind to everyone. Just a very nice person and I really have nothing bad to say about her so when I heard about what happened obviously I was very upset. I think when you saw the outpouring of things that happened since like the Go Fund Me page and the attention she’s received, I think it kind of just goes to show what kind of person she is because she affected a lot of people in a positive way and they were just trying to give back to her.”
Donations will continue to be accepted for those who would like to donate on the Go Fund Me under the campaign titled “Kortney's Road to Recovery.” Spencer also mentioned she hopes to return to Wall in the near future after she has recovered.