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.
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Who doesn’t love a good love story? This is mine. October 2017 my love for everything country brought me to Las Vegas with my girlfriends for the Route 91 country festival. A weekend of what I expected to be filled with cowboy boots, country music and country boys turned into a weekend that would mark the rest of this wild journey I call life. Austin and I met at Gilleys the second night of the concert. No one told us that New York New York’s rollercoaster doesn’t run at 3am so we opted for pizza instead. We made plans to meet up on the last day of the festival and I didn’t give it much more thought other than he was cute and we seemed to hit it off. While listening to country music and dancing we soon found ourselves on the ground with gunshots that seemed to be coming from every direction. 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. We found ourselves in a taxi with a wounded spectator. Rushed to the hospital we stayed there into the morning. In the coming days Austin went back to California and I Canada. However that wasn’t the end of friendship and 6 weeks later Austin boarded a flight to Canada. Since then we have not spent more than 6 weeks apart from each other and I wouldn’t have my life any other way✈️💑💕 . . . . . #route91 #love #countrystrong #vegasstrong #lovewins #country #route91strong #strongertogether #myforever #soulmate #tragedytolove #ourlovestory #followforfollow #gilleyslasvegas #countrygirl #countryfestival #instalove #lasvegas #bestlovestory #instagood #route91survivor #route91harvest #buzzfeed #lovestoriesintimates #theknot #howwemet #ellendegeneres #ellendegeneresshow #ldrcouples #likeforlikes @huffpost
“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.
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Less than 24hours of meeting each other we were in a mass shooting together and he never left my side. Almost two years later, living in two different country, we have a fairytale love story 💕 . Friday March 8th we headed to our favourite place to unwind Laguna Beach 🏝 we got ourselves a cute hotel room and we really didn’t make any plans other than spend time together and relax. It was a windy and chilly day by the water but we bundled up, Austin even wearing cowboys on the beach. Once we got down to thousand steps beach Austin gave me a hug. Right away I could feel his heart beating out of his chest. I asked him if everything was okay? . That’s when he looked at me got down on one knee, reached in his cowboy boot and made me the happiest girl in the world 💍 . We sat on the beach, cracked open a beer and soaked it all in 💕 the night was followed by an amazing dinner and celebration drinks at our favourite rooftop bar @skyloftoc . . #longdistancerelationship #isaidyes #engaged #fiance #heasked #howheasked #proposalstory #lagunabeachproposal #followforfollow #proposal #lovestory #howwemet #ourstory #ourlovestory #huffpostido #followourlovestory #lovejourney #followus #couplegoals #coupleinfluencer #influencer #k1visa #k1fiancevisa #sandiegoblogger #fiancevisa #route91strong #route91family #route91harvest #route91survivors #tragedytolove
“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.”