Austin Monfort didn’t make the best first impression when he met Chantal Melanson at a Las Vegas country bar in September 2017.
“I was with my girls and I gave him a hard time for not wearing cowboy boots at a country bar,” Melanson, who’s from Alberta, told People.
Despite that setback, Monfort, 24, did enough right that Melanson, 29 asked him to meet her the next night at a country music festival outside the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
That’s where a gunman opened fire on 22,000 concertgoers from his room, killing at least 58 people and injuring hundreds.
Monfort’s first instinct was to protect Melanson.
“I felt a sense of responsibility for Chantal,” he 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.” He guided her away from the mayhem and to safety.
Melanson appreciated Monfort’s actions.
“I remember laying on the ground just looking into Austin’s eyes, trying to make sense of everything,” she said. “Next thing I knew, Austin was holding my hand and we were running through the entire grounds trying to make it to safety.”
Monfort’s concern didn’t end there. He and Melanson not only stayed together the rest of the night, but they kept in contact over the following months.
What started in tragedy bloomed into love.
They dated long-distance for a while, since Monfort lived in San Diego and Melanson was in Edmonton. They got engaged in California in March 2019, and had a quickie courthouse wedding for visa purposes in November. They planned a traditional ceremony for May 8 in Las Vegas, but that’s now been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Still, the couple is happy they are together and are currently isolating themselves in California.
“I felt safe with him — I didn’t want to leave his side,” Melanson said. “In many ways, he did save my life.”
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