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‘I can make it a great day in my life’: Shooting survivor plans Oct. 1 wedding

Updated September 28, 2022 - 3:47 pm

A survivor of the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting is hoping to open a new chapter Saturday by getting married on the fifth anniversary of the worst day of her life.

“Something bad happened to me on this day that rocked and changed it,” Brittany Castrejon said in a recent interview. “I didn’t have control over it. An evil person got to say what happened to me, my cousin and everyone else on that day. Me getting to marry my best friend on that day, I can make it a great day in my life.”

The Las Vegas woman, now 33, was among thousands who attended the country music festival on Oct. 1, 2017, across from Mandalay Bay. Sixty people died as a result of the shooting, and hundreds were injured.

Castrejon met Jorge Gonzalez-Calvillo through his aunt, who tried for years to set them up. Castrejon is a court stenographer, and the aunt was a Spanish interpreter at the Regional Justice Center.

In 2020, Gonzalez-Calvillo, a construction engineer who was living in Denver at the time, flew to Las Vegas to meet Castrejon. The pair spoke on and off until September 2021, when things got more serious.

“My parents got married in six months,” Gonzalez-Calvillo said in an interview. “When I got to my 30s, I decided that’s probably not how things are going to happen. I had given up on finding true love right away, and sure enough, as soon as Brittany and I officially started dating, it didn’t take very long to decide to get married.”

‘Out there with no cover’

Castrejon and her cousin Danielle Pieper were in front of the stage on Oct. 1, 2017, enjoying Jason Aldean when Castrejon heard what she thought were fireworks. People started yelling to get down.

“I knew something was wrong when Jason Aldean ran offstage in a hurry,” Castrejon said. “I heard people yelling ‘call an ambulance’ and others holding them like they needed help.”

Castrejon and Pieper, who was 14 at the time, crouched near the stage for 10 minutes with nothing but Castrejon’s purse to cover them.

“Most of the people that died were on our side of the stage,” Castrejon said. “Me and Danielle were out there with no cover. Just me on top of her with my purse on her head. I got to see people around us not so lucky. I’m glad that I didn’t freeze and had her to protect. That kept me going.”

When the shooting stopped, the pair rushed to the Tropicana Las Vegas, where a California woman took them to her room to sleep that night.

Now Pieper, 19, is attending cosmetology school, working at Ulta and planning to be a bridesmaid in her cousin’s wedding on Saturday.

“It’s crazy to think how far we’ve gotten,” Pieper said. “It’s crazy how far we’ve gotten and the people we met along the way afterwards.”

Other survivor weddings

Castrejon is not the only Route 91 shooting survivor who has chosen an Oct. 1 wedding date.

Todd Wienke and Oshia Collins-Waters were married on the first anniversary of the shooting. Wienke shielded Collins-Waters from bullets and was shot three times in the process.

The California City, California, couple had stayed at Tahiti Village for the first time during the concert in 2017, and they returned to the venue the next year for their wedding.

Castrejon and her fiancé are getting married at Revere Golf Club in Henderson, where three years ago shooting survivors Kimberly and William King were wed.

The Las Vegas couple met in November 2014 and were engaged in December 2017, when William King proposed with a makeshift ring made out of a purple Route 91 festival wristband and a leather trinket.

A story of resilience

Castrejon said that after five years of reflection and grieving, she can listen to country music again and attend large events like concerts. She and Pieper still try to check on each other after mass shootings across the country, and Castrejon is a member of several Facebook groups with other survivors.

“Still, whenever we have shootings around the country, we have to come together during those times and give each other more comfort,” Castrejon said. “Those things still affect us more than the average person who has never been through a mass shooting.”

The cousins joined several other survivors on Jason Aldean’s “Ride All Night” tour in 2019, the first time the singer returned to Las Vegas since the shooting. Castrejon said the healing experience included survivors holding signs and Aldean acknowledging the fans he had lost last time he performed in Las Vegas.

Gonzalez-Calvillo, 35, said he’s thankful every day that he did not lose his future bride in a shooting that left so many families with a void.

“It’s the wedding that almost didn’t happen,” he said. “I would have never met my soulmate.”

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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