LAS VEGAS -- He was running, lungs burning, across the casino floor of the Luxor -- leaving his friends behind in a mad, desperate sprint toward the massacre.
It's happening again, he thought.
J.C. Monticone had just gotten a text message from his fiancee Sunday night. It was the same two words he'd heard from her on Dec. 2, 2015, when Melissa Castruita was working in San Bernardino, Calif., at the Inland Regional Center.
"Active shooter," the text read.
He ran past people gambling and drinking as if the world were normal. It contradicted everything he knew in his head at that moment. Life and death were happening outside. How could these two worlds exist simultaneously?
Castruita was crouched down in the VIP area near the stage across the street from the Luxor when she texted Monticone. She, her aunt and her cousin had been singing along with country star Jason Aldean when bullets came pouring down from the 32nd flood of the Mandalay Bay some 500 yards away.
"I'm so scared!! Do you hear that? They took jason Aldean's off stage," she texted to Monticone.
Castruita used to tell her family that after her work site was shot up by two people in the San Bernardino attack nearly two years ago, she was the safest person to be around because, well, nobody is present for a second mass shooting.
Her phone rang. It was Monticone. Over the phone he heard more gunshots. Screaming. He reached the doors of the Luxor and realized he could hear gunfire on his own.
"I'm coming to you," he told her.