Robert Aguilar and Rosa Miranda were near center stage at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, when a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
A bullet hit Aguilar, shattering three ribs and hitting his spine, temporarily paralyzing him.
He and Miranda had no choice but to play dead as the shooting continued for another 10 minutes, killing 58 people and injuring more than 400 others. Eventually they were rescued by a former firefighter who, with the help of nearby men, loaded Aguilar onto a railing and dragged him to a car which drove him and other victims to the hospital.
Since then, every October 1 represents death, pain and terror for Aguilar and Miranda. So when Aguilar proposed to Miranda, October 1 wasn’t the most obvious choice for their wedding date.
But when Aguilar’s mother made the suggestion, it slowly started to sound like a great idea, Miranda said.
“It didn’t cross my mind at first, but once she mentioned it was, ‘Why wouldn’t we do it that day?'” Miranda, 41, said. “It’s a day that we were both dreading. We want it to be something positive, something special, something that we’ve come out of. So I said, ‘Yeah.'”
Aguilar was on full throttle.
“We had to find a way to make this day a happy day, something that we would remember better,” the 47-year-old said.
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Miranda and Aguilar tied the knot in Camarillo, Calif., on Saturday, the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting.
“It sounds corny but it really is like a fairy tale,” Rosa Aguilar said as she prepared for the honeymoon in Aruba. “Saturday was the most amazing day of my entire life… There was so much happiness that I can’t even explain it.”
A “parental trap”
The wedding took place seven years after the couple first met.
Robert was divorced and raising his two daughters, while Rosa’s husband had passed away, leaving behind their three children. When the 14-year-old daughters of Robert and Rosa met while playing softball in high school, they hatched a scheme to trick their parents.
“At first, my daughter told me and I said, ‘No, you’re not going to try to set me up with someone just because he’s your friend’s father. I can find someone if I want,'” Rosa said.
But the girls succeeded and introduced their parents, who quickly became friends. It wasn’t long before they were dating.
They had been together for about two years when they went to the Route 91 Harvest Festival together and survived the worst mass shooting in US history.
Survive just at the start
Doctors told Robert Aguilar that the bullet that hit his spine came within a penny of permanently crippling him. In fact, he had to use a walker for months, then a cane for another year and a half, with lots of physiotherapy in between.
Then there were the mental and emotional obstacles. Robert, an army veteran, said he felt so much survivor guilt that he had suicidal thoughts.
“There were a lot of days when I thought there was no longer any reason for me to be here on this Earth,” Robert said.
Rosa became severely depressed and felt guilty for her struggles as Robert nearly lost his life.
Fortunately, the Aguilars found therapy and healing, which many other survivors did not.
“My regular doctor who I was seeing almost every week for all my injuries, they were just like, ‘You need to go talk to someone,'” Robert said. “I didn’t think I needed it, but after a while it weighs on you. You can’t sleep, you can’t do this, you can’t do that, and it really affects your life. daily.”
The couple also found healing by thanking the people who helped them during filming. One of them is Troy Finnestad, the stranger who saved Robert’s life. He is now a close friend and flew in from West Michigan with his wife to attend the Aguilars’ California wedding.
Finnestad said he was grateful to be there.
“They really turned a day that was just awful into a really fun and memorable day,” said the 51-year-old former firefighter turned manufacturing manager.
“You couldn’t have had a better ending.”
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