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Las Vegas shooting survivors choose Oct. 1 for wedding

October 5, 2018
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In this Oct. 1, 2018 photo, Todd Wienke and Oshia Collins-Waters walk down the aisle at the conclusion of their wedding ceremony at Chapel of the Flowers in Las Vegas. Todd was shot three times as he shielded Oshia soon after the shooting began the night of Oct. 1, 2017. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — 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 husband-to-be, Todd Wienke.

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

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

A year to the date 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, California, 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 Collins-Waters, 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. Collins-Waters 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.”

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Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com

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