Country music star Jason Aldean returned to Chula Vista Thursday for the first time since gunshots rang out during his performance at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas last year.
A large group of survivors from the Oct. 1 massacre was there to cheer him on and “finish the show.”
The shooting attack on the outdoor music festival was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Fifty-eight people died and hundreds were injured when a gunman opened fire into a crowd of 22,000 people.
Aldean was on stage performing when the shooting began.
For some survivors, the concert offered a chance to get back some of the happiness that was stolen from them that night.
Two local survivors said the show was another hurdle to clear in their journey to healing.
“Just being within the community of survivors, it’s definitely helping 100 percent,” survivor Elizabeth Carvalho said. That community gathered outside the venue before the show to embrace and prepare for the concert. Many of them had on shirts stylized with “58 Strong” to commemorate the 58 victims of the massacre.
Carvahlo was with her two best friends that night in Las Vegas. She heard the distinct sound of gunshots and knew she had to run.
Amid the scramble, she was separated from her friends and lost track of her phone.
As she ran she met a couple who helped her flee. She eventually made it to their hotel where she realized she had been shot in the foot.
Carvahlo said she borrowed a phone to call her boyfriend who then called her parents to tell them she was OK.
Meanwhile, her best friend Briana Waris could have been anywhere, even dead.
“Not knowing where Elizabeth and my best friend Michelle were was the hardest moment of my life,” Waris said.
She too teamed up with a group as she was fleeing the madness. They ran with her for more than two miles, helping her scale fences along the way.
Included in that helpful group was Las Vegas resident Jill Preston. Carvahlo and Waris both say the strangers immediately became family.
“Out of all the horror that we witnessed, I’m blessed to know that there’s goodness in the world. My best friends are alive and I have whole new family and that’s all that matters,” Waris said.
Carvahlo said she was nervous about attending Thursday’s concert in Chula Vista, but Waris explained to her that Preston’s family would be making the trip from Las Vegas and told her they could all conquer their fears together and “finish their show” for the 58 fans who couldn’t be there.
“Those 58 people, they’re not here to listen to him,” Carvahlo said. “I’m thankful that we’re able to be here and listen to him, especially along with the community and Briana our new family.”