On Sunday night in Las Vegas, amid chaos and under a hail of bullets, Justin Uhart met Jan Lambourne.
They will probably never forget each other.
Both were at the Route 91 Harvest Festival when a gunman opened fire from a hotel room across the street, killing 58 people. Now, Lambourne is recovering from a gunshot wound in a Las Vegas hospital, while Uhart is being hailed as a hero.
“He was amazing. The last time I seen him was when they took me in for surgery,” Lambourne told CBC, fighting through tears. “He saved my life.”
“This is real! get out!”
Uhart, 26, told CNN he was working the festival as a bartender to make some extra cash when the gunfire started.
Like many others, he took off running towards the stage, thinking there was a shooter in the crowd. A stunned man in a cowboy hat stared at him blankly, his eyes asking “What do I do?”
“Get the f— out, and run!” Uhart screamed, his Air Force ROTC training taking over. “This is real! Get out!”
Uhart spied a girl moving on the ground and ran to help her. But, it was too late.
“It was her just convulsing and twitching,” he said. “She was just dead.”
As he took cover near a control panel, a security guard collapsed on top of him with a bullet wound to the head.
The bullets kept coming.
“I love you. I’ve been shot”
Lambourne was visiting from Teulon, Manitoba, a small Canadian town near Winnepeg. It was the final show of the three-day concert on the Las Vegas Strip, and she remembers it as a beautiful night.
Then, suddenly, she heard a popping sound.
“I don’t know if that’s fireworks,” Lambourne told her friend, Jody Ansell.
“Next thing I knew, I took a shot,” she told CBC from her hospital bed. “I felt it.”
As she learned later, the bullet tore through her abdomen and intestines, shattering her pelvic bone. She crumpled to the ground, staring at the blood beginning to rush out. Then she began crawling through the grass, trying to find safety.
Fearing she was vulnerable in the open, Lambourne staggered towards a tent and hid under an overturned wheelbarrow. She remembered she was carrying a bag of souvenir concert T-shirts and pressed them against her wound to try and slow the bleeding.
And, she texted her husband.
“I love you. I’ve been shot. I love [you] so much,” she told him.
“I’m not going to leave you”
Running again for cover, Uhart spied a crumpled body screaming for help. With bullets still whizzing all around, he ran towards her.
It was Lambourne.
She was writhing in pain and bleeding out. He applied pressure to her wound, knowing the situation was dire.
Asked later what made him run towards Lambourne, despite the gunfire surrounding them both, Uhart didn’t really know.
“You can’t just run away,” he said. “I had to help. I had to do something.”
Her eyes were filled with terror and tears, “looking at me like ‘Help me,'” he recalled. “I was doing everything I could. I didn’t know what else to do.”
The two exchanged names.
“Hey, hey, relax,” Uhart told her. “Look at me. I’m here. I’m not going to leave you.”
He called for help. Another man appeared, and the two of them carried Lambourne to a paramedic mustering area, surrounded by screams and the sounds of bullets ricocheting around them.
Uhart kept talking to Lambourne the entire time, trying to calm her. They joked about how they were going to grab drinks later that night and talked about her cats.
A man came up and tore Uhart’s shirt to help stop other victims’ bleeding.
Paramedics loaded Lambourne into an ambulance. Although it was full with shooting victims, Uhart climbed in too, keeping pressure on Lambourne’s gunshot wound.
He had to get in the ambulance. He was the only thing keeping Lambourne alive.
“I’m not going to leave you,” he told her again. “I’m here.”
“Your wife, Jan – she’s been hit”
In the ambulance, Uhart also met a distraught young man whose hip had been shattered by a bullet. Uhart nicknamed him “California kid” and started talking to him as well, trying anything and everything to calm him.
They arrived at Valley Hospital Medical Center, which brought a new scene of carnage: gurneys with patients, rattling past across the blood-stained floor.
Uhart kept up a running dialogue with Lambourne and “California kid” – talking to them both about the “stupidest” things – to keep them from freaking out.
“The doctors and nurses were telling me ‘Just keep talking. Just keep talking.'”
He pressed a damp paper towel against Lambourne’s lips. She couldn’t drink water because she was going into surgery.
Then Lambourne handed Uhart her phone. She asked him to call her husband, Joseph, and tell him what was happening.
Uhart dialed the number. A man answered.
“Joseph, this is Justin,” he said as calmly as he could. “There was a shooting in Vegas. Your wife, Jan – she’s been hit. She’s alright, and she’s at the hospital now.”
Uhart answered as many questions as he could, then called the family of “California kid” and went through the same thing.
By then, Lambourne’s situation was critical. Her left side was swelling from the internal bleeding, and she needed to get into surgery immediately.
It was the only time, Uhart said, he really feared she was going to die.
Uhart went with her to the operating room, but a surgeon stopped him at the door.
“You can’t come in here,” the doctor said.
For the first time since Uhart rescued Lambourne three hours earlier from a bloody field, he let go of her.
“You can’t wash it off”
Realizing he had left his wallet, keys and phone back at the concert grounds, Uhart got a ride to the house of a family friend.
He got out of the car and approached the gated community’s guardhouse, his clothes stained with blood. The guard looked him up and down and said “I can’t let you in.”
But, Uhart, figuring he’d been through enough that night already, ignored him and jumped the fence.
He ran a mile to the friends’ house and called his parents to let them know he was okay.
Then he took a shower and tried to grapple with everything he had seen.
“What the f— happened?” he asked himself, over and over.
Even as the blood rinsed off, he didn’t feel clean.
“That won’t go away,” he said later, his voice growing quiet. “You can’t wash it off.”
Days later, gunshots, blood and dead bodies continue to flash through Uhart’s mind, especially when he tries to sleep.
“I haven’t been able to sleep very much,” he said. “I was throwing up. I think it all kind of hit me.”
And, he kept thinking about Lambourne, hoping she had survived the surgery.
Then came a Facebook notification: “Jan Lambourne sent you a friend request.”
Relief washed over him. She had survived.
As of Wednesday morning, he didn’t have any further details about “California kid.”