Jonathan Smith is likely to spend the rest of his life with a bullet lodged in the left side of his neck, a never-ending reminder of America's deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
Smith, a 30-year-old copy machine repairman, was shot Sunday night while trying to help save people after a gunman opened fire on the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival in Las Vegas. He knows he's one of the lucky ones to be able to walk out of the hospital, even with his severe injuries.
As the bullets rained down, family was Smith's top concern. He had driven to Las Vegas from Orange County, California, on Thursday to celebrate the 43rd birthday of his brother, Louis Rust, a big country music fan who had attended the festival in the past. They spent the weekend enjoying the music and had scored seats close to the stage for Jason Aldean's prime-time performance Sunday night.
When the gunshots started, Smith initially thought they were fireworks. The music kept playing, Smith and Rust recalled. But the bullets kept coming. Aldean looked at his security guards and ran off the stage. Then the lights went out.
Rust realized what was really going on and told the entire extended family - all nine of them, including kids - to hold hands and run. By then, it was a stampede.
Smith was focused on saving his young nieces, but they separated in the crowd. He says he turned back toward the stage to look for them, he saw people hunched behind a sheriff patrol car at the northwest edge of the concert lawn. Others were so frightened they didn't know what to do. He kept shouting, "Active shooter, active shooter, let's go! We have to run."
He grabbed people and told them to follow him toward a handicapped parking area in the direction of the airport, away from Las Vegas Boulevard. It was a large field with several rows of vehicles. Smith and the others crouched down behind one of the last rows of cars.
"I got a few people out of there," Smith said. "You could hear the shots. It sounded like it was coming from all over Las Vegas Boulevard."
A few young girls weren't fully hidden. He stood up and moved toward them to urge them to get on the ground. That's when a bullet struck him in the neck.
"I couldn't feel anything in my neck. There was a warm sensation in my arm," said Smith from the Sunrise Hospital lobby Monday afternoon as he was waiting for his final discharge. He has a fractured collarbone, a cracked rib and a bruised lung. The doctors are leaving the bullet in his neck for now. They worry moving it might cause more damage.
"I might have to live with this bullet for the rest of my life," Smith said, grimacing from the pain. A large white bandage covers the bullet hole.
Smith believes an off-duty San Diego police officer likely saved his life. The officer came over and tried to stop the bleeding and then flagged down passing cars to try to get Smith a ride. Many just drove by, but a pickup truck stopped and Smith was put in the back of it along with several other wounded victims. By then, he was struggling to breathe.
"I really didn't want to die," Smith recalled. The off-duty officer kept telling him he would be okay, just as he had said a few minutes earlier to other concertgoers.
Smith later reconnected with his brother and found out that his nieces - along with the rest of his family - made it out safely.
On Twitter and Reddit, many were quick to hold up Smith as a hero. A photo of Smith has been shared more than 74,000 times, with 177,000 "likes."
"I don't see myself that way," he said. "I would want someone to do the same for me. No one deserves to lose a life coming to a country festival."
Acts of heroism saved countless lives
Rob Ledbetter's battlefield instincts kicked in quickly as bullets rained overhead.
The 42-year-old US Army veteran who served as a sniper in Iraq immediately began tending to the wounded, one of several heroes to emerge from the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
Amid the massacre in Las Vegas, which left 59 people dead and more than 500 injured, there were acts of compassion and countless heroics that officials say saved scores of lives.
There was a man one survivor knows only as Zach who herded people to a safe place.
There was a registered nurse from Tennessee who died shielding his wife.
Like many people in the crowd of some 22,000 country music fans Sunday night, Ledbetter heard the pop-pop-popping noise and figured it was fireworks.
Then he saw people dropping to the ground. When more booms echoed in the night air, he recognized the sound of automatic weapons fire.
The gunman appeared to fire unhindered for more than 10 minutes, according to radio traffic, and then killed himself before officers stormed in and found 23 firearms.
"The echo, it sounded like it was coming from everywhere and you didn't know which way to run," said Ledbetter, who was at the concert with seven people including his brother, who was shot and injured, and his wife.
They found cover in a VIP area of the concert. Once out of harm's way, he turned to injured strangers.
Thanks to a man who took the flannel shirt off his back, Ledbetter says he put a makeshift tourniquet on a wounded teenage girl, whose face was covered with blood.
"Some random guy, I said, 'I need your shirt,' "said Ledbetter, who is now a mortgage broker and a resident of Las Vegas.
"He just gave me the flannel off his back."Ledbetter said he compressed someone else's shoulder wound, and he fashioned a bandage for a man whose leg was shot through by a bullet.
"There was a guy that looked like he had a through and through on his leg, that we just put a T-shirt around and just did a bandanna tie," said Ledbetter, who was outside University Medical Center on Monday, where his brother was being treated for a gunshot that went through his arm and into his chest. He is expected to survive.
Ledbetter and others grabbed the injured man, carried him out to Las Vegas Boulevard, put him in the back of a utility truck with five to 10 other people that was headed to the hospital.
Ledbetter said he would have helped more people but couldn't clear the barrage of gunfire.
"I'm saving people, or trying to do my best. But it got to the point, I saw people all over, laying where we used to be standing ... just laying there and nobody getting to them and I couldn't get out there. The shots just kept coming in and bouncing. I would have been in harm's way," he said.
He worries that those unfamiliar with battlefields will suffer what they have survived."Everybody there is going to have emotional problems. I know that. There was blood everywhere I went: Excalibur, Luxor, on the Strip, on the street," Ledbetter said.
"All these people are going to have PTSD. I feel bad for all of them."Another concertgoer, Anna Kupchyan, credits a man she knows only as Zach for saving her life and about nine others when he herded them into an outdoor trailer serving as a restroom.
Kupchyan, a 27-year-old law student from Los Angeles, said bullets were raining down on the crowd as she and a horde of others began running in search of a way out of the outdoor venue.
The man, Zach, opened a door and ordered people inside and then joined them and shut the door, Kupchyan said.They stayed inside as the shooting continued, everyone paralyzed in fear, she said.
"Then security came and they shouted for us to get out, to run," she recalled. Outside the trailer, dead bodies were sprawled on the ground, including a man who had been shot in the head, she said.
She and her best friend Leslie Aguilar, a 26-year-old therapist, eventually jumped in a cab that was driving by and befriended two other women survivors who let them stay in their hotel room until the danger subsided.
Not all of Sunday night's heroes survived.
Sonny Melton, a registered nurse, died in the shooting, according to The Henry County Medical Center in Paris, Tennessee, where he worked.
His wife, Dr Heather Melton, an orthopedic surgeon who was with him when shots were fired, survived.
She told WZTV in Nashville, Tennessee, that her husband "saved my life and lost his".
She said her husband was the most kind-hearted, loving man she ever met.
- With AP