‘I AM BLESSED TO BE ALIVE’

Las Ve­gas shoot­ing sur­vivors choose Oct. 1 for wed­ding

Texarkana Gazette - - SOCIETY - Las Ve­gas Re­view-Jour­nal By Bri­ana Er­ick­son

“I think it’s amaz­ing

they chose not to make to­day neg­a­tive.

This doesn’t can­cel it out, but at least it’s

equal.”

—Kim­bur Pres­myk, Las Ve­gas shoot­ing

survivor

LAS VE­GAS—The bride’s off-white, vin­tage dress lined with Swarovski crys­tals glis­tened un­der the light at the Chapel of the Flow­ers.

Oshia Collins-Wa­ters looked into the baby-blue eyes of her hus­bandto-be, Todd Wienke.

A year ago to the day, he had shielded her from gun­fire at the Route 91 Har­vest fes­ti­val.

In bring­ing her and oth­ers to safety, he was shot three times.

A year later, with shards of shrap­nel still in­grained in his back, they were about to wed.

“I will al­ways re­mem­ber this day as one of the best days of my life be­cause I am blessed to be alive to see us joined to­gether,” Wienke told his bride.

She vowed to re­mind him, day af­ter day, how safe she feels in his arms.

“When a fir­ing hell rained down upon us, you were the only voice I heard, the best and only ther­apy I needed,” she told him. “God gave me you: my an­gel, the an­swer to my prayers and the man of my dreams.”

Then they kissed.

WED­DING RE­CEP­TION

At the Kahiki Room in Tahiti Vil­lage, about an hour af­ter the 4:30 p.m. wed­ding cer­e­mony, 48 guests, in­clud­ing 16 sur­vivors, gath­ered for the re­cep­tion in a room sur­rounded by palm trees.

In the dis­tance stood the tow­ers of Man­dalay Bay, where a gun­man on the 32nd floor had fired at the thou­sands of con­cert­go­ers be­low.

“I think it’s amaz­ing they chose not to make to­day neg­a­tive.

“This doesn’t can­cel it out, but at least it’s equal,” said Kim­bur Pres­myk, a survivor who met the cou­ple af­ter the Route 91 Har­vest fes­ti­val.

At the re­cep­tion, the cou­ple, their faces inches away from each other, sang along to the mu­sic of Keith Ur­ban’s “You Are My Ev­ery­thing” as they looked into each other’s eyes.

Later, coun­try mu­si­cian Sam Rid­dle per­formed a set that in­cluded his orig­i­nal song, “Ve­gas Strong.” All the sur­vivors danced along as he played the piano.

UN­DER FIRE

Last year, the Cal­i­for­nia City, Calif., cou­ple had stayed at Tahiti Vil­lage for their first time at the con­cert.

When the shots rang out, Wienke, a cor­rec­tional sergeant, used his ex­pe­ri­ence in law en­force­ment to or­der peo­ple around to take cover.

While pro­tect­ing CollinsWaters, a med­i­cal as­sis­tant, he was shot in the lower back.

That’s when he knew the shots were com­ing from above, and they needed to get out.

He was shot a sec­ond time, in the left arm, as they fled the venue, and a third time on his left side.

He felt the wet tack­i­ness of his shirt against his chest as he asked po­lice of­fi­cers what he could do to help.

From Hoot­ers Ho­tel, Wienke was taken with two women, who were bleed­ing from their heads, to the hos­pi­tal.

Collins-Wa­ters couldn’t go with him.

Later in the night, she walked along Las Ve­gas Boule­vard, past peo­ple wear­ing only one boot, some cry­ing, cov­ered in blood.

She wrapped Wienke’s drenched shirt around her.

“Bul­lets can move,” she thought. “In a blink of an eye, it could shift and go some­where that would kill him.”

SPON­TA­NEOUS PRO­POSAL

Wienke, 49, had planned to pro­pose to Collins-Wa­ters on Dec. 12, five years af­ter they first met in 2012, when a friend in­tro­duced him and he mut­tered the word “wow.” She blushed.

In the days af­ter, they shared wine, lis­tened to coun­try mu­sic and mar­veled at all the times their lives had in­ter­twined.

Their kids knew one an­other and went to the same schools. She coached cheer­lead­ing, and he coached foot­ball for the same team.

It took them both di­vorc­ing and over a year later to meet.

To­gether, they have a blended fam­ily of seven chil­dren, all adults. On Oct. 13, Wienke pro­posed. He didn’t plan on it. He didn’t even have a ring.

“Will you share the rest of my life with me?” he asked.

“You bet­ter not be play­ing with me,” she re­sponded.

‘REA­SONS TO BE GRATE­FUL’

In the year since the shoot­ing, Wienke and Collins-Wa­ters have vis­ited Las Ve­gas five times. The first time, around Thanks­giv­ing, was the hard­est.

The grass was still there, the stage still up.

They saw Kid Rock per­form at Man­dalay Bay.

On Sept. 24, they watched Ja­son Aldean fin­ish his per­for­mance in Cal­i­for­nia.

“Fifty-eight peo­ple lost their lives, and 851 oth­ers were in­jured, but there were over 20,000 peo­ple there,” Wienke said.

“There are a lot of peo­ple that have a lot of rea­sons to be grate­ful. We’re two of those.”

Collins-Wa­ters, 48, said she still gets the dreams, the night­mares, the anx­i­ety that come with trauma.

But, she said, “He was my best ther­apy.”

“I trusted him,” she said. “I took his hand and I dove with him. I feel grate­ful that he did pull me out, be­cause it could have been worse.”

On Sept. 14, Wienke re­ceived a Medal of Valor from the Cal­i­for­nia De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tions at a cer­e­mony that hon­ored 15 other em­ploy­ees who were at the con­cert.

Also rec­og­nized was the fam­ily of the late Lt. Der­rick “Bo” Tay­lor, who sac­ri­ficed his life that night to save oth­ers.

BRIDE’S HERO

At the wed­ding, each survivor had a spe­cial wine glass wrapped and jeweled with pur­ple and or­ange Route 91 Har­vest col­ors and sil­ver an­gel wings. CollinsWaters cre­ated them.

She also made the cen­ter­pieces. “I found it ther­a­peu­tic, to be hon­est,” she said.

“It took my fo­cus off what had just hap­pened to what was to be­come.”

Collins-Wa­ters calls Wienke her best friend.

“If it had gone any other di­rec­tion, there would have been a lot to lose,” she said.

“Todd saved my life a long time ago, way be­fore that night. He brought me back to life.

“He gave me a rea­son to push to be bet­ter. He hates the word ‘hero,’ but he was.”

Pho­tos by Chase Stevens/ Las Ve­gas Re­view-Jour­nal via AP

aboveTodd Wienke and Oshia CollinsWaters walk down the aisle Oct. 1 at the con­clu­sion of their wed­ding cer­e­mony at Chapel of the Flow­ers in Las Ve­gas. Wienke was shot three times as he shielded Collins-Wa­ters dur­ing a mass shoot­ing Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Ve­gas. leftCollins-Wa­ters, left, kisses Wienke dur­ing their wed­ding cer­e­mony on Oct. 1.

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