KAMLOOPS — A B.C. couple has returned home after surviving the horrendous mass shooting in Las Vegas Sunday night.
The shooting killed at least 59 people and injured hundreds more at an outdoor concert venue.
Kamloops woman Diane Hutchinson was attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival with her partner, Kelowna RCMP officer Chris Williams, who surprised her with the trip.
The two had recently been through counselling for past traumas, never anticipating their greatest trauma was yet to come.
On the final day of the festival, during the final act, gunfire rang out across the venue.
"Chris instructed everyone to get down into the bleachers, and we just laid face down and motionless, and it went on for what seemed like a lifetime," Hutchinson said. "It was 11 minutes, I guess, of active shooting, but we were probably down in the bleachers for 20-25 minutes before we had police come up to us and instruct us to leave the area."
Hutchinson credits her partner for saving her life, as well as the lives of those around her.
As an RCMP officer, Williams is no stranger to shootings, or trauma.
"I sprung to my feet immediately, and actually slipped on the floor with the first burst that went off," Williams said. "I was the only one that jumped up like that. I felt a little bit silly. I have PTSD from involvement in previous shootings as a police officer. I've been through numerous shootings through my career, been involved in numerous traumatic events, so I thought that maybe it was just an automatic reaction."
But Williams' intuition was spot on, he was in an active shooting, one more horrifying than anything the couple had ever been through before.
"The hysteria, the chaos, the blood curdling screams," Hutchinson recalled, "it was just a terrorizing situation to be part of and I'm just so incredibly grateful to have survived it."
Now safely back home with their children, the couple is hoping to begin healing the mental and emotional scars caused by that horrific night.
"There's a huge piece of me that would like to connect with other people, and to share the experience, because I think when we bottle things up inside it can be really damaging to us, and finding other local people in the area that maybe were there or knew other people that were there and hearing their side of the story and just being able to share that information and share that experience is a big part of the healing process," Hutchinson said.
Despite all of the chaos and horror of the shooting, Hutchinson and Williams say it's the unity and kindness of strangers and first responders that will remain etched in their minds.
"The courageousness, the bravery, the sacrifice, the professionalism," Williams said. "It can't be overstated. It was absolutely unbelievable, and I think it's important for people to know that when everybody else is in chaos and running away that there's brave people running into fire to protect others."
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