Days before a deranged gunman killed 59 people in the nation's deadliest mass shooting, Jonathan Smith drove from Orange County, CA. to Las Vegas to celebrate the 43rd birthday of his brother, Louis Rust, a big country music fan.
Smith, a 30-year-old copy machine repairman, and nine members of his family were among the 22,000 country music fans enjoying the final act -- Jason Aldean -- at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival on Monday night.
Then the shots rang out.
Like others in the crowd, Rust and Smith initially thought the gunshots were fireworks.
The music kept playing, as Aldean ran off the stage. Then the music stopped and the stage lights went out.
Rust and Smith scanned the sky for fireworks. There were none. Just a torrent of bullets raining down.
As the crowd began to panic, Rust realized what was going on and told his family members to hold hands and run.
But in the ensuing chaos the family members were separated. Smith turned back towards the stage, searching for his 3 nieces -- ages 22, 18 and 17.
He couldn't find them, but he saw other frightened young people frozen with fear, making themselves easy targets for the crazed gunman.
Smith shouted, “Active shooter, active shooter, let’s go! We have to run."
He grabbed several people and told others to follow him to a parking garage near the airport where several rows of cars were parked. They huddled behind the last row of cars.
“I got a few people out of there,” Smith said. “You could hear the shots. It sounded like it was coming from all over Las Vegas Boulevard."
Smith stood up to warn several girls to get behind the cars. That's when he took a bullet in the neck.
He stumbled to the street, clutching his neck, trying to staunch the bleeding. An off-duty San Diego police officer saw him and put pressure on his neck wound. The officer tried to flag down passing cars.
Many card passed him by before a pickup truck finally stopped and Smith was loaded into the back along with other victims.
Smith struggled to breathe as panic slowly set in.
“I really didn’t want to die,” said Smith in the lobby of the Sunrise Hospital lobby on Monday afternoon. He recalled the off-duty officer kept telling him he would be okay. He was sure the officer saved his life.
Smith was treated for a broken collarbone, a cracked rib and a bruised lung.
The doctor who treated Smith told him removing the bullet in his neck might cause more damage.
“I might have to live with this bullet for the rest of my life," Smith told journalist Heather Long, who spotted him sitting alone in the lobby, waiting for his discharge papers.
He didn't look like the typical country music fan. Smith was shirtless and wearing only a pair of red shorts. A large bandage covered the bullet wound in his neck.
After listening to his story, Long snapped a photo of Smith and tweeted it out to her followers.
She captioned the image: "Jonathan Smith, 30, saved ~30 people last night before he was shot in the neck. He might live w/the bullet for rest of his life. #vegasstrip".
— Heather Long (@byHeatherLong) October 2, 2017
The photo went viral on social media. It was shared over 300,000 times on Twitter.com and Facebook.com by Monday night.
Many hailed Smith a hero for risking his life to save others.
But Smith doesn't consider himself a hero.
“I don’t see myself that way,” he told Long. “I would want someone to do the same for me. No one deserves to lose a life coming to a country festival."
A GofundMe account has been set up to raise money to assist the victims with medical expenses.