One year after the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival mass shooting in Las Vegas, survivor Heather Melton is opening up to “TODAY” about losing her husband Sonny Melton during the tragic event.
As part of TODAY’s series “Survivors: What Happens After the Headlines Fade,” Heather recalled the devastating events of the day and how she’s gone on without her husband by her side.
Sonny Melton, a surgical nurse, was one of the 58 victims who were tragically killed in the mass shootings that occurred during the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Oct. 1, 2017. His wife, Heather—a surgeon, shared the story of how her husband shielded her from gunfire as they tried to run and hide. As they ran, Sonny wrapped his arms around his wife to protect her and that’s when he was shot in the back and they were both brought to the ground. Sonny, who hails from Big Sandy, Tennessee, was taken to the hospital, where he later died.
One year later, Heather is talking with “Today” about coping with the loss.
“I can’t escape his memory. I can’t go to a concert without thinking about him, I can’t go to work without thinking about him,” says Heather. “It’s just very difficult to not have a memory associated with an activity, a date, that doesn’t have to do with Sonny.
“To me, grief is like a tattoo on my soul. It’s just there,” she adds. “It will never go away. I find happiness in things, but real joy, I don’t know if I’ve gotten there yet. I had real joy before that day, definitely.”
Heather goes on to talk about returning to the Las Vegas and letting go of the hatred that she felt that day.
“When this happened, I made a conscious effort not to have any hatred in my heart for the shooter or for anybody. Anger and hatred hurts me more than it hurts the person. The shooter’s dead. It does nothing to him for me to feel anger toward him, except for hurt me.”
Healing is a process for the surgeon, who’s new found friends, family and children have kept moving forward through the grief.
“Going through a process like this is one day at a time. I feel like i’m always on the edge of a breakdown. Emotionally, it’s just kind of there under the surface and there’s good days and there’s bad days,” Heather tells “Today.” “I think the thing that I draw my strength from the most, is that I know my husband would not want me to quit living. I want to quit living sometimes. There’s many mornings I wake up and think, ‘I’d rather not get up.’ But he would want me to keep on going. He lost his life saving me and he didn’t do that so I would sit in my room and not come out.
“If you lose somebody it’s tragic and hard. But if you also stop living, two people died that day.”