The first publicly identified victim of the Las Vegas mass murder will stand in history as a tribute to bravery and self-sacrifice while bullets fell from the sky. A nurse from Tennessee, Sonny Melton, shielded his wife as he was shot. Dr. Heather Melton told USA Today, “He saved my life. He grabbed me from behind and started running when I felt him get shot in the back.”
Canadian mechanic Jordan McIldoon was attending the country music concert with his girlfriend Amber when he was shot while protecting her from the gunfire. He later died holding the hand of a stranger who sat by his side. McIldoon’s girlfriend later posted this moving tribute to him:
Jordan Alan McIldoon, you showed me how it really is to be love unconditionally. You were truly the love of my life baby. I can never express how much you meant to me. We were going to get married and have little babies together. You will forever be in my heart, until the end of time. Forever and always my love.
— JR the Legend (@jer0me1913) October 3, 2017
Amidst the pandemonium, strangers saved the lives of strangers. Amy McAslin and her friend Krystal Goddard found themselves under a table during the shooting. At one point, the pair realized that a man was using his body as a shield to protect them from the bullets. McAslin told CNN, “A gentleman — I don’t know his name — he completely covered me. He covered my face. He said, ‘I’ve got you.'”
At some point during the shooting, the stranger was wounded, and as she ran to safety with her friend, McAslin realized that his blood covered her shirt. Reflecting on the stranger’s heroism, McAslin shared, “He’s been in my thoughts all day. He’s a truly amazing person for just trying to protect the whole, under the whole table area where we were.”
Not surprisingly, stories about strangers protecting strangers are still pouring in.
A Maryland woman who was wounded in the shooting had her life saved by two yet unnamed men. One of those men survived; the other did not. The injured women’s father told WUSA9 that “the doctor at the hospital told us that two young fellas covered my daughter up. The fella on top of the pile lost his life. I don’t know his name yet. He lost his life, but the other fella survived.”
— WUSA9 (@wusa9) October 4, 2017
Thankfully, not all heroes paid the ultimate price that terrible night. Mike McGarry lay on top of his children as the bullets rained down around them. McGarry, who had boot prints on the back of his shirt from people running over him as he protected his kids, explained to Reuters, “It was crazy — I laid on top of the kids. They’re 20 and I’m 53. I lived a good life.”
In moments of extreme duress, people don’t have time to think; they only have time to act. The above examples of heroism were not premeditated acts. These heroes didn’t suddenly become heroes; they demonstrated that they already were. That’s how they were made by God. These brave men were fulfilling their God-given role to be a protector.
As is often noted, tragedies bring out the best in humans. While true, I think the wording may be a bit misleading. “Best” does not mean outlier. In tragedies, people demonstrate what is already true about them. This was seen during the tragic events in Las Vegas as men acted heroically because they’re made in the image of God and called by God to exercise dominion over the earth — protecting women and children is just one of the many ways they are to do that.