Country music superstar Jason Aldean provides commentary for Paramount+ docuseries premiering Tuesday.
Jason Aldean remembers hearing a popping noise, and thinking it was an equipment malfunction.
“When I turned around,” he says, “my bass player was just looking at me like a deer in the headlights. And my security guy was on stage at that point, telling me to get down, waving me off the stage.”
Aldean will never forget what happened the night of Oct. 1, 2017, when a relentless gunman turned the celebratory Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas into a maelstrom of unimaginable horror. And he shares his vivid memories in detail for the first time in 11 Minutes, a four-part documentary — set to premiere Tuesday, Sept. 27 on Paramount + — that takes viewers inside the heart-stopping stories of terror and survival during the worst mass shooting incident in U.S. history.
But Aldean is not the only eyewitness in this ambitiously immersive account directed by Emmy- and Peabody-winning director Jeff Zimbalist. The documentary highlights first-person narratives of officers from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police force, trauma teams at Sunrise Hospital, and concertgoers who experienced the wide-awake nightmare of this mass-casualty event. Using never-before-seen police bodycam footage and 200 hours of cell phone video, 11 Minutes lets viewers accompany heavily armed officers on a hair-raising mission, as step-by-step they approach the shooter’s hotel room on the 32th floor of the Mandalay Bay.
By the time the last shot was fired, 58 lives were lost, and 800 people were injured.
At the heart of the documentary are miraculous stories of survival as ordinary people undertake extraordinary acts to help strangers during 11 seemingly endless minutes of gunfire. Among the handful of courageous people spotlighted: A Black man who initially feels unwelcome at the Route 91 Festival, but becomes a hero when the shooting starts; an off-duty firefighter who is a lifesaver in a crowd of injured; a cancer survivor who beat the odds once already and refuses to quit while under fire; a cop who drags his wounded partner to safety.
The performers themselves have narrow escapes. Dee Jay Silver tells the harrowing story of the moment he realized his one-year-old son was with a babysitter in a hotel room a few doors down from where the shooter was firing. Storme Warren, the popular Sirius XM radio host and festival emcee, can’t forget watching concertgoers fall one by one under the hail of bullets.
“It’s important that people know the truth out of respect for those we lost, out of those who were injured, those who are still mentally and physically scarred … that everybody’s spirits and legacies remain intact,” says Warren. “That friendships made that night in those 11 minutes were made for a reason. The story, to me, wasn’t about a shooter. It was about people helping each other.”
Ashley Hoff, an executive producer of 11 Minutes and a Route 91 survivor, says it is important that the history of that night be shared. “As I ran out of that field, I believe I witnessed some of humanity’s greatest moments,” Hoff says. “I’ve gotten to hear from many fellow survivors, some of the strongest, bravest, most resilient people I’ve ever met.”
Even so, Aldean, like so many, says he struggles with survivor’s guilt. “It’s hard not to feel a little guilty,” says the country music superstar. “I mean, those people were there to support us.”
Days after the tragedy, Aldean offered tribute to the living and the dead during the opening minutes of Saturday Night Live.