'He Didn't Leave My Side': Vegas Survivor Saved By Marine She Met Just Hours Earlier

Image via Love What Matters/Renee Cesario

Brendan Kelly led Renee Cesario to safety and helped her contact her family

In the wake of Sunday’s horrific shooting, we’re starting to hear stories of the heroes from the massacre outside the Mandalay Bay hotel. One of those stories involves two young people who began the night as strangers and ended it bonded for life.

Renee Cesario, 23, was among the 22,000 concertgoers at Sunday night’s Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, and a few hours before the horrors of the evening unfolded, she met a guy. His name is Brendan Kelly, and he’s a 21-year-old Marine who Cesario invited to attend the show along with her friends. A choice that ultimately might have saved her life.

Cesario shared her story with the Facebook page Love What Matters, where it quickly went viral.

“Brendan and I met only 2 hours before the Jason Aldean show. I left my friends so we could go up super close to the front for the end of the night. We were just dancing and having fun and then all of the sudden there were loud noises that sounded like fireworks, but no lights were going off,” she writes.

Of course, we now know that those noises weren’t fireworks, but hundreds of rounds of ammunition coming from a high floor of the hotel where shooter Stephen Paddock would kill 59 people and injure more than 500 others before taking his own life. Cesario was confused at first, but Kelly leapt into action. “It stopped, and Jason Aldean kept playing but then the shots fired again and he ran off the stage. Before I knew what was going on, Brendan tackled me down to the ground and covered me from the fire.”

“It stopped again and he looked around to see what was happening and then it just kept going. He looked at me and said ‘We have to get out of here. We can’t stay here. It’s not safe,'” she writes.

And that’s when a man who was a stranger only hours earlier turned into the person who likely kept her from being shot — and saved her life.

“Then he pulled my arm up to get me out of the piles of people. We had no idea who was dead or who was alive. We just started to run.” But Kelly’s fast thinking amid unimaginable terror wasn’t his only heroic feat for the night. He also made sure Cesario was able to keep in contact with her family after losing her cell phone during their dash for safety.

“He kept telling me it was going to be okay and to keep running until we were safe. He even let me use his phone to stay in touch with my sister so she knew I was safe, which is the text you’ll see.”

Image via Love What Matters/Renee Cesario

“My sister wasn’t answering her phone,” Cesario’s sister, Jenn, told CBS News. “I thought she was dead.” At 10:30 PM, the sisters’ father called Jenn to let her know that he wasn’t with Renee, but that there had been a “massive shooting.” And that’s when Kelly made sure Renee could contact her family and let them know she was OK.

His good deeds didn’t go unnoticed by the Cesarios. “Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for taking care of my sister…seriously,” Jenn texted Kelly after the pair made it to safety. He responded back, “Absolutely, that’s what we do, take care of our own and those around us. Glad I could be there for her in that crazy time.”

Anyone else’s heart exploding right now? This man is incredible.

While plenty of readers in the comments are cheering for these two to get married, that’s not really the takeaway here. Whether they get romantically involved or not is moot. A very young man helped a very young and terrified young woman, while probably terrified himself. He remained level-headed and got them both to safety while chaos reigned, and now, the Cesario family has their daughter and sister, safe at home. “The whole night he didn’t leave my side,” Renee writes.

To call him a hero is an understatement.