A Canadian woman and a California man who met the day before the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting escaped the shooting together and have since fallen in love and tied the knot.
“Austin never left my side that night. Hand in hand and complete strangers we ran across the entire festival grounds trying to escape the gunfire,” Chantal Melanson said of her now husband, Austin Monfort.
The couple met at Gilley’s Saloon during the Route 91 Harvest Festival, just one day before gunman Stephen Paddock would open fire on hundreds of concertgoers, killing 59 people and injuring more than 800.
“I thought he was really nice, handsome and tall,” Melanson, 29, told People, adding that she was with a group of friends and gave Monfort a hard time for “not wearing cowboy boots at a country bar.”
But the pair eventually looked past that and started dancing the night away and exchanged phone numbers.
“He was so easy to talk to, it felt like we knew each other forever,” Melanson added.
They planned to meet up on the last day of the festival, October 1. During Jason Aldean’s closing performance, shots rang out, and the pair found themselves “on the ground with gunshots that seemed to be coming from every direction,” Melanson wrote on the couple’s joint Instagram.
“I felt a sense of responsibility for Chantal,” Monfort, 24, told People. “She was with me and not her friends. I felt like not only did I have to get myself out, but also her. Keeping her calm and getting her out kept me calm, and didn’t allow me to panic.”
They wound up in a taxi with a wounded spectator and spent the rest of the night in the hospital. In the morning, the couple said their goodbyes, with Monfort returning to Southern California and Melanson going back to Canada.
The two stayed in touch over the next few months, and love blossomed as they processed the tragedy of what happened together.
The couple got engaged in March 2019 when Melanson visited California. They later married at a San Diego courthouse and planned a traditional celebration in Las Vegas that was supposed to be held on May 8 for family and friends.
Still, it had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I felt safe with him — I didn’t want to leave his side,” Melanson told People about her husband and their shared experience with tragedy. “In many ways, he did save my life.”