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West Virginia woman’s husband speaks on Las Vegas massacre


For The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.  — Denise and Tony Burditus were listening to the last group performing at the Route 91 Harvest Festival concert in Las Vegas Sunday evening and were about to leave when they heard the first shots.

Tony and Denise Burditus via Facebook

Denise Burditus, 50, of Martinsburg was among at least 59 people killed Sunday, when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, of Mesquite, Nev., opened fire on the concert audience of about 22,000 from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. More than 500 other were wounded.

“She asked me if they were gunshots and I said no,” Tony Burditus said Tuesday in a telephone interview from Las Vegas. “Then we heard the second burst, and we knew they were real.

“We didn’t know where the shots were coming from, so I took her by the hand to lead her out of the grounds when she was struck,” he continued. “She held on for a bit. I got her out of the venue to the street and finally got her in the back of a private pickup truck. We lost her on the way to the hospital.”

Tony Burditus wrote on his Facebook page Sunday that his wife died in his arms.

“It saddens me to say that I lost my wife of 32 years, a mother of two, soon to be grandmother of five this evening in the Las Vegas shooting,” he wrote.

“Denise passed in my arms. I LOVE YOU BABE.”

Denise Burditus posted a photograph of herself and her husband at the concert on her own Facebook page about 30 minutes before the shooting began. They were smiling.

“She had a beautiful smile,” Tony Burditus said. “And she never met a stranger. We’d be standing in the checkout line and she’d make conversation with people. She was a wonderful mother. She held our family together during my 36-year military career. … She was a very, very special person. It’s especially nice to hear from people how she affected them for the good.”

According to friends, Denise and Tony Burditus were high school sweethearts, both graduating from Hedgesville High School in 1985 and 1984, respectively. They lived in several states as he was stationed at various U.S. Army posts and moved back to the Martinsburg area after his retirement.

Denise Burditus had returned to school, taking classes at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, her husband said. She was studying business, but he expected her to get into fitness and nutrition.

“We enjoyed getting away, traveling,” Tony Burditus said. “We RV with our grandkids all summer. Sometimes, she was as big a kid as the kids were.”

Tony Burditus said he had talked with their children Tuesday morning.

“They’re emotional at times, but they’re coping, remembering the good things, the happy things,” he said. “I’m having ups and downs, but I’m doing good. I hope to get back home with my family and friends this week. But I’m not going to leave her here. I’ll travel with her.”

He said services are being planned.

Michelle Potts, a lifelong friend of Denise, said a candlelight vigil is being planned for later this week in conjunction with Hedgesville High School. Details will be forthcoming.

“We’d been best friends since sixth grade,” Potts said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “She was my sister from another mother. We talked every day. She was always smiling. She was very positive, always looking on the bright side. She loved to travel, and she loved country music.”

This was the couple’s second visit to the Route 91 Harvest Festival. They went last year.

“She was already talking about going back next year,” Tony Burditus said. “It was three days of country music in Vegas. We would have made it an annual thing.”

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