Austin Monfort was hanging out at Gilley's — a famous country music bar — in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 30, 2017, when he saw Chantal Melanson on the dance floor. He approached her and she made fun of him for not wearing cowboy boots.
Both were in Vegas for the Route 91 Harvest, a three-day country music festival from September 29 to October 1, 2017.
The two began chatting and realized there was some chemistry. "It just felt like we knew each other forever. We went to grab a bite after the bar and exchanged numbers," Chantal told Metro.
The next day, Chantal texted Austin and they met up at the festival. The two found a spot near the stage and danced the day away with Austin's friends.
At 10 pm, as Jason Aldean performed on stage, Stephen Paddock opened fire on the concert from his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
Las Vegas was the 273rd mass shooting in 275 days in 2017 https://t.co/TlboC9VwE1 pic.twitter.com/dIv5RLpJoj
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) October 2, 2017
"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," she said.
"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," she added.
Fifty-nine of the festival-goers died in the shooting and 869 of the 22,000 attendees were injured. Paddock died by suicide in his hotel room.
Chantal and Austin jumped in a taxi to get to safety and saw a woman limping towards them who had been shot in the leg and the stomach. So they drove with her to the hospital.
"We stayed in the hospital overnight due to lockdown and Austin never left my side," Chantal said. "He held me throughout the night and kept me safe. After what we had just gone through, he was my safe place."
After the tragedy, Austin returned to his home in California and Chantal flew back to Canada, but they talked with each other every day through Facetime and quickly fell in love.
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Their relationship helped them get through the trauma of living through the shooting. "We've dealt with everything by focusing on the positive," Chantal said. "There was a reason we met when we did. We needed each other in this chaos."
Six weeks later, Austin flew up to Canada to see Chantal. "And we never spent more than six weeks apart either me going to California or him Canada," she said.
After eighteen months together Austin proposed to Chantal in Laguna Beach, California.
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"He brought me to our favorite beach and there was no one around. It was perfect," Chantal said. "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."
Austin wore cowboy boots for the occasion as a nod to their first conversation.
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For immigration reasons, Austin and Chantal had a quick courthouse wedding on November 1, 2019, but they plan to have a big celebration for both of their families soon. The couple hoped to get married in Vegas on May 8, but that's 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 said.
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