Las Vegas Shooting Survivors Are Getting Married, But Coronavirus Is Messing Up Their Plans
Two survivors of the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting are ready to celebrate their wedding with family and friends, but the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is messing up their plans.
Chantal Melanson and Austin Monfort met at a bar on the second day of the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. She, living in Alberta, Canada, was there with friends who had an extra ticket; he, from California, was celebrating a friend's 21st birthday at the three-day country music event.
"It just felt like we knew each other forever," Melanson, now 29, tells the U.K.'s Metro. "We went to grab a bite after the bar and exchanged numbers."
On the final day of the festival (Oct. 1), Melanson wound up spending the day at the event with Monfort, now 24, and his friends. They were together when a gunman opened fire on the crowd from a nearby hotel around 10PM, when Jason Aldean was playing his festival-closing set.
Melanson remembers thinking the gunshots were fireworks, at first; however, when other fans began ducking and dropping to the ground to protect themselves, Melanson, Monfort and his friends did, too.
"We were on the ground across from each other, so we both were looking at each other," she recalls, and when the group made the decision to run to safety, "[e]veryone 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. We eventually ran onto a side street and jumped into a taxi with a lady already in the car," Melanson continues. "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."
Melanson and Monfort were locked down in the hospital overnight together, "and Austin never left my side. He held me throughout the night and kept me safe," Melanson shares. "After what we had just gone through, he was my safe place."
The two kept in touch after they both left Las Vegas, and six weeks later, Monfort flew to Canada to visit Melanson. "Since then, we have not spent more than six weeks apart from each other," she writes on Instagram, "and I wouldn’t have my life any other way."
Long-distance relationships are difficult enough without an international border involved, but the couple made it work by "ha[ving] very important life conversations earlier on," Melanson explains. Monfort proposed on March 8, 2019, while they were in Laguna Beach, Calif., a location that has been the couple's getaway spot since the start of their relationship.
After being granted a K1 visa, which allows a U.S. citizen's fiancee to move to the States, Melanson and Monfort had 90 days to get legally married. The pair went to the courthouse on Nov. 1, 2019, for a small ceremony, but planned a big wedding and reception back in Las Vegas for May 8, 2020. They learned in late March that, because of the ongoing pandemic, those plans would need to be postponed.
"It’s been a bit stressful, as so much planning has gone into it with my whole family living in Canada and his California," Melanson admits. On Instagram, she explains that because she is on a K1 visa, she's unable to work and to travel outside of the U.S., and her green card may be delayed because of pandemic-related shutdowns.
The pair are focusing on the positive, though; after all, they've survived much worse together.
"Through all the ups and down, I can’t imagine doing this with anyone else," Melanson writes. "We’ve come out better and stronger every time 💕."
Remembering the Victims of the Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting