One of the first people shot during the Las Vegas shooting massacre has reunited with the retired firefighter who saved her.
Las Vegas resident Rosemarie Melanson wouldn’t be alive today had it not been for her the “guardian angel” who got her to safety on October 1 when a gunman opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest music festival from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel.
Melanson – a mother of four — was attending the country music festival with two of her daughters. The tickets were a Mother’s Day gift from her eldest daughter, Stephanie Melanson.
The trio were having a great time at the concert, evident by selfies taken before the shots rang out.
“I pulled them by the hand and we went all the way up to the front,” Melanson told CNN. “We were like kids in a candy store. I mean, just so excited.”
Melanson was in such a state of euphoria that, even though she “never wears hats,” she grabbed the baseball cap off her daughter’s head and put it on backwards before snapping some photos.
“To see her going up to the front and just letting loose and just enjoying – we were living our best lives,” her daughter said.
Then, the shots rang out. At first, Melanson thought they were firefighters. Almost “immediately” after she realized they were bullets, she was shot.
When Stephanie Melanson saw her mom face down on the ground, she figured she was “playing it safe.”
“We flipped her over, and that’s when we saw she was shot,” Stephanie Melanson said, holding back tears.
The last thing Melanson remembers before she blacked out was her daughter’s screaming her name.
During that time, Melanson said she had an “out-of-body experience.”
“My body just rose up, and I could see my body laying on the ground, and I went to heaven,” she said. “And it was indescribable — the peace that you felt. But I was told it wasn’t my time, that I had to go back.”
Melanson said she “came to” just in time to see Don Matthews’ face.
Matthews was attending the concert with his girlfriend and had become separated from her in the chaos when he found Melanson.
As soon as he saw her, his 34 years of firefighting experience kicked in, and he told Melanson’s worried daughters to leave and take cover.
“I knew those kids had to leave,” he said. “It was just a bad spot for them to be in.”
The girls eventually fled, reluctantly. Even though Matthews admitted he was worried for his own safety, he was able to get Melanson into the back of a truck with the help of some strangers. She was then brought to the hospital.
It took 11 hours for Melanson’s family to locate her, and even though she was alive, she wouldn’t be alert for weeks.
Her husband said he thought he might lose her during that time.
“I prayed a lot, cried a lot,” Steve Melanson said. “At one point, I thought what life would be like without her. “
After nine surgeries and six months in the hospital, Melanson was ready to reunite with her savior.
“I don’t think I was expected to live, but I’m a fighter, I’m a warrior, you can’t keep me down,” she said.
In footage captured by CNN, Matthews arrived at Melanson’s door, and she began to sob immediately after laying eyes on him.
“So nice to meet you,” Matthews said, already embracing her.
“You too,” she replied.
The day was filled with countless hugs and tears. Melanson’s 89-year-old mother cried as she thanked Matthews for his deed.
When asked if he thought he would see Melanson again – or if he believed she would even survive – Matthews replied, “No” before bursting into tears.
“So, never give up. Miracles happen, and this one surely did,” he said.
Melanson is expected to make a full recovery.
“I’m here for a reason. My job is not done,” she said. “I have no idea what that job is, but I guess I still have work to do.”
Her husband said she believes it was fate that brought her and Matthews together.
“I do believe God put everybody at the right place at the right time to save her life, and Don was her guardian angel,” Steve Melanson said.