Watch novelties Paramount+ the documentary series 11 Minutes is a story of humanity and survival, told through emotional first-hand accounts and never-before-seen footage of the worst mass shooting in modern US history. Broadcast only on September 27 Paramount+.

Five years ago, my life changed forever. And when it happened. I’ve been in those boots. Purchased at a local thrift store, they’ve become my go-to gig—cute and comfortable, with a unique design that’s been praised a lot. I never once made them think, “These are the shoes I’ll be running in for the rest of my life,” but that’s what they became.

On October 1, 2017, I was standing in the fourth row when a gunman opened fire on me Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. My husband and I were on the ground for three rounds before getting up to run. I kept failing. 22,000 people dropped their drinks, leaving the cement like an ice rink, and as it turns out, cowboy boots are really bad sneakers. After my third fall we stopped and I took off my boots before continuing to run.

That night ended with us hitchhiking home to Southern California with two polite strangers, finding out I had broken my arm in the fall, and thanking us for being alive. However, there was one part of me that didn’t come back… my boots.

A photo of Ashley Hoff at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, taken about 30 minutes before the shooting.

Sean Hoff

The image of them in the field haunted me for days to come. I called my best friend who lives in Vegas and asked him to go to the warehouse where all the remaining items were stored. They were not there. The FBI agent asked me if I wanted to file a claim. Due to various circumstances – many items have been sent for cleaning – and according to this agent, “eventually a catalog will be sent”.

I almost laughed at the thought that anyone would prefer dirty things after one of our country’s greatest tragedies. It seemed absurd, but I made the claim anyway. The following months were an emotional rollercoaster, and one thing kept grabbing my attention – boots. I became obsessed. I researched who made them. I’ve been browsing thrift sites online. I ordered a pair on eBay that was two sizes smaller. I knew deep down that we had left with the gift of survival. Why couldn’t I let it go?

Six months later, I was sitting in my office working when my email rang. In my inbox was a link to the promised catalog. I held my breath and clicked on “shoes” with a title that sounded like an online shopping tab: 77 pages, five pairs per page, representing 385 people who have known what it’s like to run barefoot all their lives. It was the first time I felt that there was someone around who could understand what I was feeling. I was impressed by the thorough listings. It was clear to me that this organization does everything in its power to make these items identifiable, knowing that they could be someone’s closure, a survival flag, or a memento of a lost loved one.

I scanned the pages and there on page 56 were my boots. A couple of months later, an FBI agent delivered them to me. She asked me if I wanted company while I opened the box, and something about the way she asked made me say yes. When I lifted the lid, a wave of clarity washed over me and I realized why I couldn’t let go of those old boots. They were the last part of me that was in that field, part of my miracle, and they were home. In an instant, a chapter of my life closed and a new page of my healing journey opened.

Ashley's boots
Ashley’s boots were returned months after the shooting.

Ashley Hoff

As a journalist, I started asking Debbie’s agent about her work. She explained that a team was created within the FBI to deliver items of mass violence to survivors and loved ones. They realized that in the blink of an eye, these objects turned from ordinary to extraordinary. The FBI is often portrayed as cold and mechanical, but I can’t tell you how pleased I am to know that this initiative exists. It is led by the bravest and kindest group of agents who volunteer their time to be with people in very vulnerable, emotional moments.

Later, as I sat sobbing at the kitchen table, I found myself back in the catalog. As I looked at the thousands of products inside – shoes, shirts, jackets, jewelry, hats – I thought it was more than just stuff. They depict the incredible journey of man. These are stories of loss, survival, heroism, resilience and connection. My stomach flipped and I felt pressure on my heart…maybe I was there because I’m a storyteller. Maybe I’m still here because I have a story to tell. And it was from this moment that the path to creating “11 minutes” began.

Watch the original 4 parts Paramount+ documentary cycle “11 minutes”. Through emotional first-hand accounts and never-before-seen footage, viewers are immersed in the worst mass shooting in modern US history. This is a story of humanity and survival at a country music festival. Broadcast only on September 27 Paramount+.