Mass shootings are tragic, terrifying, and confusing but unfortunately they’ve been unusually common in the U.S. lately. While current attention is focused on the February 2018 Parkland shooting, we shouldn’t forget about the incident that occurred just 4 months earlier in Las Vegas.
Considered the worst mass shooting by a single person in the U.S, 59 people were killed and over 850 were injured in Las Vegas. During this frightening time, many selfless heroes risked their lives to protect others.
Without them, the death count would have been even higher.
These heroes come in all different shapes and sizes. They’re not the ultra macho handsome heroes you see in movies or comic books.
At first glance, Sue Ann Cornwell looks like a normal 52-year-old woman; in reality, she’s a hero with an incredible story.
A pregnant Miriam Lujan attended the Route 91 Harvest Festival, expecting a fun night of music.
October 1, 2017 marked the date of Las Vegas’s annual Route 91 Harvest Festival. Thousands of people were gathered there to hear performances by country music stars like Eric Church and Sam Hunt. Among the audience was Miriam Lujan who was 7 months pregnant at the time.
According to Las Vegas Review Journal, Lujan came to the concert with two of her friends, but when Jason Aldean took the stage, she moved in closer and left them behind.
Little did Lujan know that this decision would nearly cost her life, as this was when a shooter aimed down from his Mandalay Bay Hotel suite.
Standing directly in front of her were two older women, Cornwell and her sister, Billie Jo LaCount, who was visiting from Wisconsin. While these women had never met Lujan before, they didn’t think twice when it came to protecting her.
Cornwell and her sister protected Lujan’s stomach with a backpack.
Without a moment to spare, LaCount grabbed her sister’s backpack and used it to shield Lujan’s stomach. Cornwell laid on top of both women to further protect them.
“Stay down, stay down,” Cornwell said.
Once there was a lull, they got up from off the ground.
“I don’t want my baby to die,” Lujan said.
“Your baby’s not dying on my watch,” Cornwell replied.
As they made their escape, Lujan noticed the devastation left behind by the shooter. She was scared, shocked even, but she kept on going.
“What are you having?” Cornwell asked to take her mind off the destruction.
“A boy,” Lujan replied.
“What’s his name?” Cornwell asked.
“Xander,” Lujan said.
That’s where the conversation ended. After that, the trio escaped through a knocked-down fence and went their separate ways. Cornwell got the name of the baby but not of the woman she saved. Lujan didn’t know Cornwell’s name either.
Thanks to that backpack, Lujan and her baby made it out alive.
After the shooting, Lujan had a bit of a scare. Little Xavier had been kicking and flipping all throughout the concert, but when his mama went to Hooters to reunite with her pals, he stopped moving for about an hour.
“I was worried about when we ran and I had to drop to the ground, with a harsh impact like that,” said Lujan.
Once he started moving again, Lujan was thankful he was alive. Still, she knew that he wouldn’t be were it not for those two brave women who shielded them during the attack.
Every day for three weeks straight, she searched online for their names hoping she could reach out and thank them. Yet, unfortunately, nothing came up.
Lujan gave birth to Xander on November 26, 2017. While taking care of him did occupy much of Lujan’s time from then on, she still made a concerted effort to get in touch with her heroes.
“When you meet people like that, you kind of just keep thinking about them,” Lujan said.
Yet, in March 2018, she stumbled upon a post from Cornwell in a Route 91 survivor group. From there, she reached out to her to see if they could organize a reunion.
Months later, Cornwell reunited with Lujan and her baby, Xavier.
A week after discovering that Facebook post, Cornwell and Lujan reunited at the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden. LaCount unfortunately couldn’t join them but Cornwell did get to meet someone pretty special—the baby she helped save.
Cornwell came prepared. As a retired school bus driver, she knows what makes kids tick. She gave little Xavier books, a toy bus, and a tiny pair of cowboy boots.
“Auntie Sue Ann’s got you,” she told him.
At one point, Xavier started crying. While normally a stressful moment, Cornwell was relieved that the 4-month-old was alive and able to express himself.
“You can cry all you want; we are just happy you’re crying,” Cornwell said. “I’m so glad you found me. I’ve been looking.”
“We made it,” Lujan replied. “That’s all that matters; everybody’s safe.”
As Cornwell rocked Xander in her arms, he started to fall asleep. In that moment, the two women couldn’t help but think how miraculous it was to be standing alive with him.
“He’s already part of history, and he doesn’t even know it,” Cornwell said. “Out of all the ugly, here’s this child that survived … one day his mom is going to have a story to tell him.”
“I want him to remember the good moments. I want him to remember those people that did not make it and to remember that people will help strangers to survive,” Lujan said. “And if anything were to happen similar to him like that, I hope he would be able to do the same.”