'You're missing your soul mate': Survivors grieve year after Vegas massacre

Heather Melton's husband Sonny found land in Tennessee where the two would build a home and start a new phase of married life together. But Sonny never got to live there.

Instead, he is buried on the land.

Sonny Melton with his wife Heather Melton

He died shielding her at the massacre at a country music concert in Las Vegas last year, one of the 58 victims in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

"I moved in about two months after he was killed," she said. "He found the land and it was kind of really symbolic of us starting our life together."

"That's why I made the decision to bury him here because I felt like he never got a chance to live here and I just felt like this is where he belonged," said Melton, an orthopedic surgeon.

One year later, survivors and family members of the victims at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival on Oct.1, 2017, are still healing, physically and emotionally.

"There's always something that's going to remind you that you're missing your soul mate," Melton, 49, said. "In some ways it seems like it's hard to believe it's already been a year and then in other ways it seems like an eternity without him."

Image: Susan Melton sits by her son Sonny's final resting place at his home in Big Sandy

Sonny, 29, was a registered nurse who worked in the same hospital as Melton. He was well-liked by his patients and the staff and a caretaker to Melton's three children from a previous marriage.

Melton said Sonny saved her life, protecting her from the barrage of bullets raining down on concertgoers as they tried to escape the venue.

"He just wrapped his arms around me and I almost immediately felt him get shot," she said.

Sonny's loss was felt not only by her family and his, but by the community around the small town of Big Sandy, Tennessee, where he was beloved, she said.

"That one bullet that killed Sonny, it took something of me too. It didn't just kill him, it really devastated an entire community," she said.

Image: A painting that Heather Melton commissioned

The path to healing once again seemed out of reach for the Melanson family after Rosemarie, a mother of four who was shot in the chest. The bullet pierced through her lung, esophagus, spleen, liver and other organs.

Two of her daughters always attended the festival together and one had bought Rosemarie, 54, tickets as a Mother's Day present.

She has been essentially hospitalized ever since and just underwent a 12th surgery and developed another complication.

Paige Melanson, 26, Rosemarie's daughter, said the doctors had told the family she would need a year to recover from her injuries.

"Here we are, almost to the day a year at this point, and she's still in the hospital," she said.

She said the complications from this surgery were particularly difficult for the family as Rosemarie had started to seem more like her normal self.

"She really started to, like, show signs of her that we haven't seen in a very long time," she said. "My mom was back."

The Las Vegas hospital where she is being cared for was a "second home" for her husband, Steve Melanson, 60, who sleeps at the hospital every night.

These are the victims of the Las Vegas massacre: 

Victims of the Las Vegas shooting
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Victims of the Las Vegas shooting
Chris Roybal of Southern California, was a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan, ABC News said. He was 28.

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Sonny Melton (pictured right) is seen with his wife Heather, who survived the shooting.

(Photo via Heather Gulish Melton)

Quinton Robbins, 20, is described by his aunt as "the most kind and loving soul."

(Photo via Kilee Wells Sanders/Facebook)

Jordan McIldoon (left), 23, of British Columbia, was confirmed dead by his parents as well as fellow concert-goer Heather Gooze, who said McIldoon died in her arms. 

(Photo via Facebook)

Victim of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Jordan McIldoon, is seen in this undated social media photo obtained by Reuters October 3, 2017. Social media/Handout via REUTERS

Jassica Klymchuk, a single mother of 4, was visiting Las Vegas from Alberta with her fiancé. 

(Photo via Facebook)

Lisa Romero worked as a secretary at her local high school in Gallup, New Mexico. 

(Photo via Facebook)

Denise Burditus, of West Virginia, was attending the concert with her husband, and died in his arms. 

(Photo via Facebook)

Rachael Parker was a records technician for the Manhattan Beach Police Department in California, she was 33. 

(Photo via Twitter)
Susan Smith worked for the Simi Valley Unified School District in California.

(Photo via Facebook)

Adrian Murfitt was a commercial fisherman in Anchorage, Alaska, the Alaska Dispatch News reported. He was 35.

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

John Phippen of Santa Clarita, California, was a father of five, grandfather of one and owned a remodeling and repair company. 

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Angie Gomez was a 2015 graduate of Riverside Polytechnic High School in California.

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Victim of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Angie Gomez, is seen in this undated social media photo obtained by Reuters October 3, 2017. Social media/Handout via REUTERS

Dana Gardner (pictured left) was attending the concert with her daughter, according to a GoFundMe page set up in her memory.

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Rhonda LeRocque attended the concert with her husband, and their 7-year-old daughter, who were not injured, according to the Boston Globe.

(Photo via Facebook)
Jenny Parks was a wife, mother to two young children and a teacher, according to a GoFundMe account set up in her memory.

(Photo via Facebook)
Nesya Tonks was the mother of three boys, according to a GoFundMe set up by her employeer, Technologent.

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Hannah Ahlers is survived by her husband and three children.

Photo Credit: Facebook

Carrie Barnette, 34, was in Las Vegas for a friends 30th birthday party.

Photo Credit: Nicole Johnson

Sandy Casey had taught special education for 9 years at the Manhattan Beach Unified School District. 

Photo Credit: Manhattan Beach Unified School District

Victim of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Sandy Casey, is seen in this undated social media photo

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

Thomas Day Jr. is survived by his four children who attended the Route 91 Harvest Festival with him. 

Photo Credit: Thomas Day Jr./Facebook

Charleston Hartfield, 34, was an off-duty Las Vegas police officer, youth football coach, and military veteran. Our… https://t.co/UafOdLrcFz

Bailey Schweitzer was only 20 years old and had just started working at Infinity Communications and consulting as a receptionist 7 months ago. 

Photo Credit: Infinity Communications and Consulting

Victim of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Bailey Schweitzer, is seen in this undated social media photo obtained by Reuters October 3, 2017. Social media/Handout via REUTERS
Victim of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Melissa Ramirez, is seen in this undated social media photo obtained by Reuters October 3, 2017. Social media/Handout via REUTERS
Victim of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Jack Beaton, is seen in this undated social media photo obtained by Reuters October 3, 2017. Social media/Handout via REUTERS
Christiana Duarte had begun working at her first full-time job since graduated college, according to the Los Angeles Times.

(Photo via Facebook)
Stacee Etcheber was a mother and wife to a San Francisco Police Dept. officer.

(Photo via Facebook)
Jennifer Topaz Irvine was a family law attorney based in San Diego, according to CBS News.

(Photo via Facebook
A fourth Kern County resident has passed away: Family of 27 y.o. Kelsey Meadows, confirm that she is the fourth Ker… https://t.co/DdzsCXbBh5
Calla Medig was described as a kind-hearted young woman with a beaming smile, according to CBC News in Canada.

(Photo via Facebook)
Cameron Robinson (pictured right) was an amazing friend, son, brother, uncle, cousin, coworker and boyfriend known for his love of cooking and dancing, according to a fundraising page set up in his memory.

(Photo via GoFundMe)
Family tells me Kurt Von Tillow from Cameron Park was killed in #LasVegasShooting. Say he ❤️ his country. Always wo… https://t.co/w7Ndiq5YlO

Bill Wolfe Jr. was a loving husband and a wrestling coach in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.

(Photo via GoFundMe)

A fundraising account set up for Dorene Anderson (pictured top left) described her as a loving wife, mother, sister, aunt and friend.

(Phot via GoFundMe)

Steve Berger was celebrating his 44th birthday with a group of friends, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

(Photo via EFS Advisors)

Tara Roe Smith was the mother of two young sons, according to the Canadian Press. She was reportedly separated from her husband, Zach, during the shooting.  

(Photo via GoFundMe)
Erick Silva has been identified as one of the victims in the #LasVegasShooting https://t.co/uv3taTQCqU

Brennan Stewart had a love for music and his family requested that the funds raised from a GoFundMe account set up in his honor be used for a local youth organization that is centered around the arts.

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Michelle Vo was attending her first country music concert, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

(Photo via Facebook)

Heather Alvarado loved to travel with her three children and her husband, according to a statement released by the Cedar City Police Department to local media.

(Photo via GoFundMe)

Denise Cohen was a mother of two who was attending the concert with her boyfriend.

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

Victim of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Jordyn Rivera, is seen in this undated social media photo.

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

Candice Bowers was a single mother of three and is described her as a superhero who loved country music; she was ki… https://t.co/9qh6ARaN2I
Andrea Castilla was celebrating her 28th birthday with her sister, boyfriend and her sister's fiancee, according to a GoFundMe page set up by her family.

(Photo via Facebook)
Austin Davis was considered a friend to all, according to a fundraising site set up in his memory. He was 29.

(Photo via GoFundMe)
Chris Hazencomb saved his friend's life by shielding her, the Ventura County Star reported. He was 44.

(Photo via GoFundMe)
Victor Link, 52, “I could type for hours saying how great of a man you were and how everyone loves you so so much.”… https://t.co/qu3fOQ3jY7
Lisa Patterson was a loving mother, wife and donated countless hours to her community, according to a GoFundMe account. She was 46.

(Photo via GoFundMe)
Rocio Guillen Rocha was still on maternity leave after giving birth to her fourth child six weeks ago, NPR reported. She was 40.

(Photo via GoFundMe)
Derrick "Bo" Taylor served the Ventura Conservation Camp for decades according to statement by the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation. He was 56.

(Photo via Facebook)

He said that while the latest complications felt like "the light has dimmed at the end of the tunnel" his wife was still fighting on.

"Rosemarie's never given up. She's still fighting, but she's not giving up," he said.

Recently, Rosemarie began to show signs of improvement and this past Thursday she was finally able to go home.

"After having minor setback after surgery on September 4 she is and continues to heal," her husband wrote to family and friends on Facebook. "After almost a year in the hospital she has again proven to all of us that God has been listening all along answering everyone's prayers in his time."

"As the one year anniversary approaches we will not look back rather focus ahead and celebrate her life of survival along with all the other survivors and pray quietly for their continued recovery and health at the same time honor and remember those who lost their lives," he added.

Image: Susan Melton and her mother Lura Dean Clayton hang green ribbons in remembrance of Sonny Melton

Mike Cronk, 49, who survived the shooting and aided his best friend who was wounded, said it gets harder every day knowing the grim anniversary was approaching.

"Initially, I was angry but I kind of knew I really wasn't going to get the answers I wanted," he said.

Cronk, a retired schoolteacher from Tok, Alaska, said after the shooting he found himself unable to work and do things such as go to his children's basketball tournament.

"For this last year, I just have no desire to be around people," he said, adding it was too overwhelming to deal with his emotions.

After his friend Rob McIntosh was shot, Cronk used his pickup truck as a makeshift ambulance to transport the wounded. One of the wounded he tried to help died along the way, a young man Cronk later learned was named Quinton Robbins.

Cronk said he's been in touch with Robbins' uncle to let them know he was not alone when he died.

"Somebody was with him the whole time, I was holding his hand. He did not die alone," he said.

Jason McMillan, a sheriff's deputy in California, was left paralyzed from the waist down after a he was shot in the chest. The bullet is still lodged on his spine.

"As soon as it happened, I fell on the ground and I couldn't move my legs at all right away," he said.

Jason McMillan was injured in the Las Vegas shooting last year

After he was shot, McMillan's fiancé Fiorella Gaete dragged him to the other side of the stage to get him out of the line of fire, where fellow concertgoers were loading the injured into pickup trucks to take to the hospital

He then spent five days in a medically induced coma and more than two months in hospitals, first being treated in Nevada and then with rehabilitation specialists at a hospital in Colorado.

McMillan, 36, said he struggled to come to terms with his new reality when doctors first brought him the wheelchair he would have to learn how to use.

"That was like a prison sentence to me. I didn't want to look at it," he said.

But over time and with continued therapy, McMillan came to see the wheelchair as representing something else, a new freedom.

"I gained a lot of freedom back, because when you're stuck in bed, you can't even sit up without assistance," he said.

McMillan said his doctors have told him that because it was an incomplete injury, there was still a chance he could eventually progress to how he was before.

Image: Over 700 green ribbons are hung all over Big Sandy in remembrance of Sonny Melton

"There's no certainty. I could stop progressing today, and this could be where I'm at, or I could go all the way back to 100 percent. Or I could drop back down," he said.

The injury has left McMillan with ongoing nerve, muscle and joint pain, hypersensitivity and the pain from having the bullet still lodged in his spine.

"Sometimes it feels like I'm getting stabbed, stabbed in the back," he said.

But even as he has adjusted to a new normal, McMillan said every day was a reminder of the shooting.

"I don't need any further reminder of that day than this wheelchair. I remember it every single day multiple times a day," he said.

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