In an unstable world in constant turmoil, where dangers and feelings of unsafety plague our lives, random acts of kindness are like a breath of fresh air.
In 2017, the deadliest mass shooting on American soil occurred at a country music festival in Las Vegas. Stephen Paddock fired more than 1,000 rounds from his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Casino. The carnage left 58 people dead and another 851 injured. In the midst of the absolute devastation, strangers risked their own lives to save others, countless acts of heroism demonstrated that humanity still exists…
Featured photo credit: www.gofundme.com/jonathan-smiths-medical-expenses
It Started Out As A Nice Weekend
Jonathan had driven to Las Vegas from Orange County, California to celebrate the 43rd birthday of his brother, Louis, a big country music fan who had attended the festival in the past. They spent the weekend enjoying the music and had scored seats close to the stage for Jason Aldean’s prime-time performance on Sunday night.
When the gunshots started, Jonathan initially thought they were fireworks. The music kept playing. But when he saw the bullets plaster into the bodies of the people are around him, he knew he was wrong. The bullets kept coming. Jason Aldean looked with fear at his security guards and ran off the stage. Then the lights shut off…..
A Chaotic Scene
Louis realized the unfortunate reality of what was occurring and told the entire extended family, all nine of them, to hold hands and run as fast as they could. But by then, it was a stampede. People were running in all directions, frantic, not knowing where to run towards or hide….
Not knowing the location of the shooter, the concertgoers did not know where to search for safety. The bullets seemed like they were coming from everywhere. Some described it as being ambushed with an endless spray of bullets. Bodies of victims lay all over the place with blood splattered in what seemed like every inch of the venue. But, even then, Jonathan switched to survival mode. He was focused on saving his three nieces but to his horror, they separated in the crowd…
Ran For Their Dear Lives
He says he turned back toward the stage to look for them, he saw people hunched behind a sheriff patrol car at the northwest edge of the concert lawn. Others were so frightened they didn’t know what to do. He could have turned away and continued to find a place to hide alone, but this would not be the case. He turned to them and kept shouting, “Active shooter, active shooter, let’s go! We have to run.” So, together, they ran, and ran for their dear lives…
Hiding Behind Cars
He grabbed more people on the way and told them to follow him toward a handicapped parking area in the direction of the airport, away from Las Vegas Boulevard. It was a large field with several rows of vehicles. Jonathan and the others crouched down behind one of the last rows of cars. And as they stood there in fear, the loudness of the shots and the terrifying screams of the concertogers continued…
A Selfless Act
Jonathan noticed that a few younger girls weren’t fully hidden. In a courageous move, he stood up in the midst of the chaos, moved toward them and urged them to get on the ground for cover. That’s when a bullet struck him in the arm and neck….
A Stranger’s Help
Off-duty police officer, Tom McGrath was looking for his wife when he found Johnathan. He was dragged to safety by the off-duty police officer who had to put his own fingers in Jonathan’s bullet wound to stanch the bleeding. Tom then flagged down passing cars to try to get Jonathan a ride. Many just drove by, but one amazing person in a pickup truck stopped….
A Truck Full Of Victims
Tom carried Jonathan’s bloodied body onto the back of the truck. When Tom looked around the truck, he encountered several other wounded victims. A woman laid in the corner with an open wound from a bullet that struck her knee. Tom ran over to the woman and helped tie a tourniquet on her leg to stop it from bleeding. And as Tom finished, he looked towards Jonathan and noticed he was struggling to breathe…
He Thought He Was Going To Die
As blood was running down his neck, Jonathan thought at that moment, this just might be it. He remembers telling Tom that he didn’t want to die. Looking at him with certainty, the officer reassured him that he would be Ok. Jonathan had been saving lives before, and now, his was being saved…
It was Jonathan’s heroism that prevented the death toll from rising even further. He is credited with saving at least 30 people from the scene. But, sadly it seemed likely his life could possibly be lost in the selfless act.
Found The Paramedics
Tom found a paramedics nearby where he transferred the wounded victims including Jonathan. He told the paramedics Jonathan needed to go to a hospital immediately. Tom took a look at Jonathan, and at that moment, thought he would most likely die from his severe neck injury. But, miracles do happen…
When Jonathan and the other wounded passengers arrived to Sunrise Hospital, another scene of tragedy would unfold. Injured victims were stumbling out of random cars, some being carried inside by others. A paramaded rushed to Jonathan’s aide, placed him in a wheelchair and pushed him towards the emergency room…
A Tough Operation
After hours of surgery, the prognosis was looking grim for Jonathan. Doctors were not able to remove the bullet in his neck, afraid that by doing so, it would cause more damage. On top of it all, he had a fractured collarbone, a cracked rib and a bruised lung. But, Jonathan would not give up without a fight….
Life Forever Changed
With constant care at a rehabilitation center, Jonathan was able to recover, but not fully. Jonathan’s life will never be the same physically or mentally. Excruciating pain from his injuries has become a normal part of his life. With the bullet still lodged in his neck, Jonathan knows he is still one of the lucky ones…
Two Heroes Cross Paths
The aftermath of the tragedy has left countless lives shattered. The devastation and pain it has caused is beyond measurable. But what is helping people cope with the trauma is the stories of heroism like Jonathan and Tom. Although, their paths crossed in the most devastating manner, it would not be the last time…
Officer Tom and Jonathan would later reconnect and speak at length over the phone. During a CNN interview, Smith said he now considers Tom a brother, and the officer concurred. Jonathan is convinced that he would no be alive if it weren’t for Tom coming to his aide. But both men refuse to attain any credit for their courageous acts, yet alone be called heroes. They both agree that it was simply the right thing to do.
Nobody Suffered Alone
The Support Of The Community
During the shooting, the brave and selfless efforts of strangers coming together to save lives, even if that meant losing their own demonstrates that in the face of evil, goodness always prevails. On the morning after the shooting, lines to donate blood in Las Vegas stretched for blocks. Wait times were as much as six hours or more. The entire nation had come together raising millions of dollars to help victims and their families.
Are They Still Friends?
The traumatic incident has inflicted mental anguish that will haunt both men for the rest of their lives. Both Jonathan and Tom have to live with constant nightmares of the bloody carnage, unable to shake off the horror of what they witnessed. But their long lasting friendship has worked as a coping mechanism, helping them to slowly move on with their lives.