It was a magical night in Las Vegas last October with country music star Jason Aldean taking the stage for his first song.
Then from high above came a hailstorm of lead as a lone shooter discharged thousands of rounds of ammunition out of a hotel window from the 32nd floor.
Melissa Wall knew that someday she would return to Las Vegas after being caught up in a mass shooting there last year, but she had no idea it would be so soon.
Wall was among the audience at the ill-fated Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 1 when Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500 more.
“I haven’t stopped traveling,” said Wall, who lives in Patrick County, Virginia. “Since then, I’ve been to the Bahamas and Mexico. I travel alone with my kids. You can’t let an act of evil stop you from living your life.”
Then Wall’s aunt, Lisa Grezmak, who lives in Pilot Mountain, won a call-in contest and was awarded a trip for two to the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas.
She asked Wall to accompany her, saying, “I couldn’t ask for a better person to share it with.”
A few days before they were scheduled to leave for the Sept. 21-22 event, Grezmak again got lucky and won the Grand Prize Ultimate VIP Experience, which was basically picking a winner from all the winners.
“It’s like winning the lottery twice,” said Wall as she ticked off the perks of the ultimate VIP experience: a limousine to and from the airport, flight upgraded to first class, two extra nights, a golf game with musician Dustin Lynch on Saturday, front row seats, full backstage passes, a suite at the MGM Grand Hotel, a guitar signed by the artists, an after party at the Bellagio Hotel, a poolside cabana with an unlimited tab, and two personal assistants.
This concert is featuring Justin Timberlake, Fleetwood Mac, Childish Gambino, Jack White, Carrie Underwood, Mariah Carey, Imagine Dragons, Jason Aldean, Shawn Mendes, Luke Bryan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Panic! At The Disco, Kelly Clarkson, Sam Smith, Kygo, Rae Sremmurd and Logic.
Of all the musical heavyweights on that who’s who of a lineup, Wall is most looking forward to seeing Jason Aldean and hopefully having a moment to sit and talk about what she says is “the scariest moment of his life and my life.”
“We share that story,” she said. “He was onstage when it happened. He was the headliner, and he will be forever linked to it. I relive that moment whenever I hear ‘When She Says Baby,’ and I want to talk about that.”
But not too much. Wall doesn’t want the shadow of the past to overwhelm this trip. She wants to continue to gain closure, but she also wants to return to the site of last year’s concert and stand there and pay her respects to “the 58 angels whose lives were taken.”
“I’m truly blessed. I owe it to myself and to the victims to live my life to its fullest, because 58 people don’t have that chance.”
Wall wears a purple bracelet to forever remind her of the fateful shooting. “When I look at that bracelet, I get a whole new motivation.”
“When I hear suitcases roll across a tile floor or a marble floor, it sounds like the gunfire sounded. I just don’t want to hear suitcases roll across the floor. I want to have a different connection to that sound. Especially at the Las Vegas airport.”
Wall wants new memories of Las Vegas.
“Life is short. Live for today. Be better than you were yesterday,” Wall said, as she prepared to leave for Las Vegas two days early and stay in a luxury suite at the MGM Grand and be waited on hand and foot by a personal assistant.
“I’ve never stayed in a suite in my whole life. Aunt Lisa winning the trip was wonderful, but this is beyond anything I can imagine.”
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.