In 2017, Chantal Melanson was at a fun night out at the Vegas Route 91 Harvest Festival, listening to some great music – when everything changed.
Little did she know that she would be caught in the midst of a mass shooting and live to tell the tale, all thanks to her now-husband, the man who saved her life.
Before the tragedy…
On October 1st, 2017, happened the deadliest mass shooting committed by a single man in America. It took the lives of 264 people and injured another 869 individuals. What was supposed to be a pleasant evening of dancing and enjoying music turned into a tragedy.
Chantal’s decision to attend the festival made at the last minute, after a friend called her with a spare ticket. She booked a flight on a whim from Alberta, Canada to Las Vegas for the three-day event.
Only one night prior to the tragedy, Chantal was enjoying herself with her friends, dancing to the music at Gilley’s, a famous country music bar. That’s when a man approached her to say hello. He introduced himself as Austin Monfort. He had come to the event to celebrate a friend’s birthday.
At first, the two didn’t connect. But as the night wore on, they chatted more and danced together…inevitably, a spark developed.
It just felt like we knew each other forever. We went to grab a bite after the bar and exchanged numbers.
Chantal Melanson to Metro UK
As it turns out, Austin ended up being more than a transitory flame. He ended up changing her life forever. But it wouldn’t happen until the next night of the festival.
Austin saved her life
The next day, Chantal headed to the festival early and reached out to Austin about meeting up. They were still there just after 10pm, when Stephen Paddock, the shooter, opened fire on the crowd from his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
“We thought it was fireworks at the beginning since all big concerts usually have some kind of fireworks, however when it wasn’t stopping, everyone dropped to the ground”, Chantal told Metro.
We were on the ground across from each other so we both were looking at each other. We stayed on the ground for a while and the shots were not stopping.
Everyone tried to run to safety as the bullets rained from above. It was total chaos and panic. However, Austin and Chantal didn’t leave each other. Austin held onto her tightly as he guided her out.
Everyone ran in different directions, but Austin stayed with me and we ran together. We ran across the entire festival grounds stopping a few times to get shelter.
Chantal, Austin and their friends escaped unharmed, unlike the many who tragically lost their lives. But even though they managed to reach safety, they wanted to help out others.
“We were about to leave, when another lady was running towards us holding her leg and stomach – she had been shot. We were all strangers at that point but tried to help one another and rush to the hospital.”
He never left her side
Once Chantal and Austin reached the hospital, they were kept there overnight due to an emergency lockdown. That’s when their bond solidified.
Austin never left my side. He held me throughout the night and kept me safe. After what we had just gone through, he was my safe place.
The afternoon after the shooting Austin flew home to California but Chantal’s flight was the following day. Once they were back home, they continued to FaceTime every day and quickly fell in love.
“He was the only person I wanted to talk to. It just felt so right and safe talking to him after what we went through,” Chantal admitted.
Once he visited her in Canada, they made it a routine of never spending more than 6 weeks without seeing each other. However, immigration rules have made it harder to be together. This led to an important discussion between the two.
We had very important life conversations earlier on since we were from two different countries, we had to figure out what life would be like if we stayed together and made this work.
Eighteen months later, he proposed
In March 2019, after 18 months together in Laguna Beach which had been their “little getaway since [their] relationship started.” They loved to escape there and spend time only the two of them–so evidently, that’s where Austin would propose.
He brought me to our favorite beach and there was no one around. It was perfect. His heart was beating out of his chest when he gave me a hug and he got down on one knee and proposed, followed by a beautiful three course meal.
After the proposal, they decided to apply for a K1 Visa, which means that the fiancé of a U.S. citizen can move to be with them, but they must marry within 90 days. After 10 months, in September 2019, the visa was finally granted.
“We drove from Alberta Canada to San Diego, California. It was the most exciting road trip ever!’ Chantal says.
Since then, the couple had planned a huge wedding for family and friends in Las Vegas for May 9 this year, but sadly it has been postponed due to coronavirus. “It’s been a bit stressful as so much planning has gone into it with my whole family living in Canada and his California,’ Chantal adds.
The silver lining?
However, through it all we are just so grateful that we both get to be quarantined together and not in different countries!
The two plan to rearrange their wedding party and celebrate their remarkable love story when lockdown is over.
If there is one thing we can learn from this incredible story, it’s that human connection can triumph over the darkest of times.
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