Couple who survived Las Vegas mass shooting together get married on tragedy’s anniversary

Robert Aguilar and Rosa Miranda survived the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Then they survived the mental health struggles that followed. Now they’re reclaiming the worst day of their lives.

Robert Aguilar and Rosa Miranda were near the front of the stage at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017, when a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel.

A bullet hit Aguilar, shattering three ribs and hitting his spine, temporarily paralyzing him.

He and Miranda had no choice but to play dead as the shooting continued for 10 more minutes, killing 58 people and wounding more than 400 others. Eventually they were saved by a former firefighter who, with the help of some nearby men, loaded Aguilar onto a guardrail and dragged him to a car that raced him and other victims to a hospital.

Since then, every Oct. 1 has represented death, pain and terror for Aguilar and Miranda. So when Aguilar proposed to Miranda, Oct. 1 wasn’t the most obvious choice for their wedding date. 

But when Aguilar’s mother made the suggestion, it slowly started to sound like a beautiful idea, Miranda said. 

“It didn’t cross my mind in the beginning but once she mentioned that it was, ‘Why wouldn’t we do it that day?'” said the 41-year-old Miranda. “It’s a day we both dreaded. We want it to be something positive, something special, something that we came out of. So I said, ‘Yeah.'”

Aguilar was all in. 

“We had to find a way to make that day a joyous day, something to have a better memory from,” the 47-year-old said. 

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Miranda and Aguilar got married on Saturday in Camarillo, California, the five-year anniversary of the mass shooting.

“It sounds cheesy but it really is like a fairytale,” Rosa Aguilar said as she was getting ready for the honeymoon in Aruba. “Saturday was the most amazing day of my entire life … There was so much happiness I can’t even explain.”

A ‘parent trap’

The wedding came seven years after the couple first met.

Robert was divorced and raising his two daughters, while Rosa’s husband had died, leaving their three children behind. When Robert’s and Rosa’s 14-year-old daughters met playing softball in high school, they hatched a scheme to set their parents up. 

“At first, my daughter told me and I said, ‘No, you’re not going to try to set me up with someone just because she’s your friend’s dad. I can find someone if I want to,'” Rosa said. 

But the girls got their way and introduced their parents, who quickly became friends. It wasn’t long before they were dating.

They had been together for about two years when they went to the Route 91 Harvest Festival together and survived the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. 

Surviving just the beginning 

Doctors told Robert Aguilar that the bullet that hit his spine came within a dime’s width of permanently paralyzing him. As it was, he had to use a walker for months and then a cane for another year and half, with plenty of physical therapy in between. 

Then there were the mental and emotional hurdles. Robert, an Army veteran, said he experienced so much survivor’s guilt that he had suicidal thoughts. 

“There were a lot of days I thought there was no reason I should be here on this Earth anymore,” Robert said. 

Rosa became severely depressed and felt guilty about her struggles given that Robert almost lost his life.

Luckily the Aguilars found therapy and healing, something many other survivors don’t

“My regular doctor I was seeing almost weekly for all my injuries, they were just like, ‘You need to go talk to somebody,'” Robert said. “I didn’t think I needed to but after a while it weighs on you. You can’t sleep, you can’t do this, you can’t do that, and it really affects your everyday life.”

The couple also has found healing in thanking the people who helped them during the shooting. One of them is Troy Finnestad, the stranger who saved Robert’s life. He’s now a close friend, and flew from western Michigan with his wife to attend the Aguilars’ California wedding.

Finnestad said he was grateful to be there.

“They really turned a day that was just horrible, to a really fun, memorable day,” said the 51-year-old former firefighter turned manufacturing director.

“You could not have had a better ending.”

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