RAMONA, Calif. (CBS Local) — A Canadian woman has married the California man who saved her life during the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.
“I felt safe with him — I didn’t want to leave his side,” Chantal Melanson, 29, told People. “In many ways, he did save my life.”
Melanson met her future husband Austin Monfort of San Diego at a popular country bar in Las Vegas one day before the Mandalay Bay shooting that killed 58 people and injured more than 800. Both were in town for Route 91 Harvest, a three-night country music festival.
“He was so easy to talk to, it felt like we knew each other forever,” she said.
The next night, Melanson met up with Monfort and they joined 22,000 concertgoers to watch the performances of the final night of the outdoor event. While watching Jason Aldean perform, the couple heard a series of loud bangs.
“We were just listening to music having a good time,” Monfort, 24, recalled. “Until we realized that the noises weren’t fireworks, they were gunshots.”
According to Monfort, he felt a “sense of responsibility” to protect Melanson.
“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,” he said.
Melanson said she remembers looking into Monfort’s eyes “trying to make sense of everything.”
“Next thing I knew, Austin was holding my hand and we were running through the entire grounds trying to make it to safety,” she recalled.
The couple stayed together throughout the night before parting ways in the morning to return to their respective homes.
Melanson and Monfort stayed in touch and formed a relationship as they processed the trauma. They got engaged in March 2019 and married in a San Diego courthouse, as documented on their mutual Instagram page fittingly titled tragedytolove.
Unfortunately, plans to hold a traditional wedding ceremony were postponed due to coronavirus pandemic.