Couple who met just before Las Vegas shooting marry on eve of coronavirus pandemic

Austin Monfort and Chantal Melanson found love amid tragedy.
Austin Monfort and Chantal Melanson found love amid tragedy.(Instagram/tragedytolove)

They met just before a massacre and married on the eve of a pandemic.
But nothing can put a damper on the solid bond shared by Austin Monfort, 24, and Chantal Melanson, 29, who first set eyes on each other in Las Vegas at the end of September 2017.
Actually it was Monfort who bumped into Melanson on a bar’s crowded dance floor, he told “Good Morning America.” They started chatting, and danced together.
Both were in town for the Route 91 Harvest, a three-night outdoor festival on the Las Vegas Strip. They went for pizza, talked for hours and agreed to meet up at the festival on its last day. But first they talked for hours.

“We sat there for a long time, and it seemed so easy,” Melanson told “GMA.” “I had a good feeling as we went our separate ways.”
A day later it seemed like kismet when she found him as soon as she walked onto the festival grounds, after they had been texting trying to figure out where to meet.
“It was crazy to me because there were over 20,000 people, and this complete stranger I met once just happened to be in my line of sight,” Melanson told “GMA.”
They edged up to the front of the stage where country star Jason Aldean was wrapping up his show. One second they were bouncing to the music. The next second, a series of pops that they quickly realized weren’t fireworks.
It was 64-year-old gunman Stephen Paddock, unleashing hell on thousands of revelers. Surviving the massacre enacted by the gunman who killed 58 and wounded 413, with several hundred more hurt fleeing from the chaos, the two ended up falling in love.
“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?’ ” Monfort told People. His first instinct was to protect Melanson.
“I felt a sense of responsibility for Chantal,” Monfort 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.”
“I remember laying on the ground just looking into Austin’s eyes, trying to make sense of everything,” Melanson told People. “Next thing I knew, Austin was holding my hand and we were running through the entire grounds trying to make it to safety.”
They leaped into a passing taxi with two other festivalgoers, one wounded, and spent the night locked down at the hospital. Soon after, they went their separate ways, him to San Diego and her to Alberta, Canada. They didn’t know whether they’d see each other again.
But from there, love bloomed.
“Who doesn’t love a good love story? This is mine,” Melanson wrote on Instagram, where she began documenting that story under the title Tragedy to Love, starting with their meeting in the bar. “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.”
Then came the gunshots, and the experience that would bond them for life.
“Austin never left my side that night,” she wrote. “Since then we have not spent more than 6 weeks apart from each other, and I wouldn’t have my life any other way.”
After two years of visiting back and forth, they got engaged in March of last year and were married in a civil ceremony in November. Their planned traditional celebration, which had been scheduled for May 8, was scuttled by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our wedding was supposed to be Friday,” Manfort wrote on Instagram earlier this month of their planned May 7 nuptials. “Although we didn’t have the wedding, we still wanted to celebrate us. We had a wonderful evening date in the backyard, with a few of our wedding signs, a wonderful dinner and champagne. Our hearts go out to everyone who had to postpone their weddings during COVID. So much planning goes into the special day, and it’s heartbreaking to have to cancel such a special day.”

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