It was the last night of the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, so for concertgoers to hear fireworks didn’t seem to be out of the ordinary. The only strange thing was, the popping noise wasn’t accompanied by a light show in the sky.
Soon, everyone realized that the sound wasn’t at all associated with a joyous, bright end to the three-day series of country music concerts. Even Jason Aldean, the artist strumming his guitar on stage, realized he had to take cover because that sound was coming from a gun.
A single gunman sprayed bullets over the crowd, killing 58 and injuring 546, all people who had descended upon Sin City to hear musicians sing and spread joy. Somewhere in the fray were Dennis and Lorraine Carver – and they somehow managed to escape without injury.
But the relief and joy surrounding the miracle of their survival would be short-lived. A little over two weeks later, their family faced yet another tragedy – and, this time, they wouldn’t be able to escape unscathed.
Together for 22 years, fun-loving couple Dennis and Lorraine Carver shared two daughters and countless good times together. Their eldest daughter, 20-year-old Brooke, wrote in a Facebook post that her mom, 53, was “so full of life, always laughing and dancing.”
Her 52-year-old father was the perfect other-half to her mom’s wild side. “He was the hardest worker,” Brooke wrote. “The strongest man we have and will ever meet in our lives.” She said his main focus was taking care of his family, working “day in and day out all for [Brooke] and her sister.”
Together, Dennis and Lorraine lived life to the fullest. They snow-mobiled in Idaho, went on a helicopter ride, traveled to UFC fights and gambled in Las Vegas. They were also avid music fans, regularly traveling to concerts and festivals featuring their favorite artists.
So it was nothing out of the ordinary for them to make their way to Vegas for the Route 91 Harvest Festival at the start of October 2017. Lorraine posted smiley photos from the concert to her Facebook, but the festival’s vibe would quickly take a turn for the unthinkable.
Unbeknownst to concertgoers including Lorraine and Dennis, a lone gunman named Stephen Paddock was preparing to open fire on the field where the action was taking place. He checked into a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. He bashed the windows with a hammer and took aim.
At 10:05 p.m. on October 1, the horror began. As singer Jason Aldean gave the final performance of the festival – and some 22,000 people gathered to watch – Paddock fired hundreds of rifle rounds directly into the crowd that the Carvers were a part of.
As the bullets rained down, Dennis knew what he had to do to protect Lorraine: he laid on top of her, a human shield against the very real possibility of a fatal gunshot wound. They were in such danger, according to a Facebook post from their daughter Brooke, that a “man right next to [Dennis] was shot in the leg, that’s how close they were.”
But the Carvers were able to survive. During a lull in the gunfire, they got up and ran away – holding hands, no less – and lived through the deadliest mass shooting in US history without injury. They were lucky, and in the weeks following the tragedy, they made it clear that they knew this.
Two days after the shooting, the Carvers returned home to Riverside County, California, where they adjusted to their new normal. Friends and family made it easier for the couple, Brooke told the <em>Las Vegas Review-Journal</em>. “They heard from all of the people they cared about most. They were so happy.”
They lavished each other in love, too. After they returned home, Brooke recalled her dad asking for advice as to which kind of flower he should buy Lorraine, although there was no cause for celebration. “He just wanted to give my mom a reason to smile after the shooting,” she said.
But, just as their love flourished like never before, the Carvers once again faced tragedy and heartbreak. On October 16 Dennis and Lorraine were less than half a mile from home when their car crashed into a metal gate and burst into flames.
They were so close to home that their 16-year-old daughter Madison heard a huge boom when the vehicle plowed into the gate – and she went to investigate the sound. She discovered a familiar car, her parents’ car, completely enveloped in fire.
Firefighters spent almost an hour putting out the flames, but by then it was too late: both Dennis and Lorraine died in the fire. And, while the world only saw the tragedy of dying so shortly after surviving the Las Vegas massacre, the Carvers’ daughters had a different outlook on their parents’ deaths.
Because of their experience in Las Vegas, Dennis and Lorraine had gotten so much out of their lives in just the half-month after the shooting. “We’ve been given little pieces of them that we would’ve never gotten if the shooting hadn’t happened right before they died,” Brooke said.
For two weeks, they got to see their parents content, resilient, and absolutely crazy about each other after what they endured. “I swear they were more in love those two weeks than the last 20 years,” Brooke said.
And the Carver girls – who have set up a page for donations to their mother’s favorite charity in lieu of gifts for the family – say they find solace in the strength of their mom and dad’s bond. “We’ve found some peace in knowing that our parents just loved each other so much that they had to go at the same time,” Madison said. “They couldn’t live without each other.”