Austin Monfort and Chantal Melanson met each other right before they were both caught in a terrible Las Vegas mass shooting together.
True love hits you at the strangest of places. A couple who met each other during a deadly mass shooting have since fallen in love and even gotten hitched. Austin Monfort and Chantal Melanson were acquainted with each other at a country bar in Las Vegas. They were both in town for the Route 91 Harvest festival, a three-night musical event featuring hit country acts as well as up-and-coming artists. They decided to attend one of the festival's events together. Little did they know that a gunman would open fire into the crowd of 22,000 concertgoers. It turns out the shooting was just the beginning of the couple's love story, PEOPLE Magazine reports.
When Austin spotted Chantal across the bar as the second night of the music festival came to a close, he thought he would try his luck and approach her. Sadly, he was quickly rejected. Chantal explained in an interview with PEOPLE, "I was with my girls and I gave him a hard time for not wearing cowboy boots at a country bar." Nonetheless, Austin was not one to be dissuaded. He waited for a few minutes before walking up to her and asking her to dance. She agreed. "After I got over him not wearing cowboy boots [laughs], I thought he was really nice, handsome, and tall," she said. "He was so easy to talk to, it felt like we knew each other forever." The pair hit it off and ended up dancing and talking for hours before exchanging numbers.
The following night, on October 1, Austin asked Chantal if she would like to join him on the last night of the festival. They headed to the outdoor event together. As country star Jason Aldean was just about done with his set, the couple - along with thousands of other concertgoers - heard a series of loud bangs ring out from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel. As it was later reported, a 64-year-old gunman had "broken out the window of his hotel room and was firing bullets from high-powered weapons into the crowd of 22,000 concertgoers." At first, the couple thought the loud bangs were fireworks. They could not have been more wrong.
"We were just listening to music having a good time," Austin recalled. "Until we realized that the noises weren’t fireworks, they were gunshots. Then it became, 'Am I going to survive this, how much longer until police can make it stop, and how do we get out of here?'" Chantal added, "I thought it was fireworks at the beginning. When I realized what was happening, I started panicking." Almost instinctively, Austin felt compelled to protect Chantal. As bullets flew throughout the crowd, her now-husband guided Chantal through the chaos of the crowd, covering her the entire time.
Austin stated, "I felt a sense of responsibility for Chantal. 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." Even though he had only known her for a day, he did his absolute best to protect her. "I remember laying on the ground just looking into Austin’s eyes, trying to make sense of everything," Chantal said of the event that changed their lives forever. "Next thing I knew, Austin was holding my hand and we were running through the entire grounds trying to make it to safety."
While the couple made it out to safety, not everyone was as lucky. The mass shooting left 58 people killed and 800 injured. A 59th victim succumbed to her injuries later in November. Chantal and Austin, however, formed a bond they never expected to. The pair stayed together for the rest of the night and said their goodbyes to each other the next morning. Austin soon flew back to his home in San Diego and Chantal to hers in Canada. Over the next few months, they kept in touch and before they knew it, they were in love. They got engaged in March last year and later married in a San Diego courthouse. They're currently living in California together until they can have a traditional celebration. Their love story just proves that beautiful things can bloom out of the most terrible circumstances. "I felt safe with him — I didn’t want to leave his side," Chantal affirmed. "In many ways, he did save my life."