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Las Vegas Survivors Search For The Heroes Who Helped Save Them


As a shooter sprayed bullets down from a Las Vegas hotel room, concertgoers and passersby below scrambled madly to get away. Strangers pulled the wounded over fences and threw them into cars and trucks. The people at the wheel raced to hospitals. Well, now, more than a week later, survivors are looking for the anonymous heroes who saved them. NPR's Leila Fadel reports on one family's search.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: On October 1, Elle Gargano was shot in the back of the head. Her friend got her under the stage at the concert to protect her. Fellow concertgoers helped get Elle over the fence and out of the festival grounds.

MIKE GARGANO: I have been writing daily reports on how Elle is doing for...

FADEL: Mike Gargano, Elle's father, recounts the story in the chapel of the Spring Valley Hospital. His 23-year-old daughter is too exhausted with her recovery to talk.

M. GARGANO: They ran towards the street, and they hailed somebody going by in a car - a man and a woman. And they stopped them and said, this girl's been shot. She needs to go to the hospital. And they said, get her in. We'll take her there.

FADEL: Elle couldn't see because of the gunshot wound, and there was no room for her friend Justine Walker in the car.

M. GARGANO: What Elle said to us was she heard that, and she was - she said, I was really worried because I couldn't see. I don't know who these people were. Justine wasn't with me anymore, and they just drove off with me.

FADEL: Mike was nervous, too.

M. GARGANO: (Laughter) And when I think about that, I went, oh, my God - putting my daughter in a strange car with two people in Vegas (laughter).

FADEL: Now, the family is searching for that couple. They got Elle to the hospital. She was stabilized and transferred. Katie Gargano is Elle's mother. She frantically called hospitals that night, trying to find her daughter as she drove from California. She found her and spoke to the surgeon who was about to operate, calling it a life-saving surgery.

KATIE GARGANO: And that hit me (laughter) like a rock.

FADEL: Today, it's a miracle, Katie says. Elle's out of the ICU and doing physical therapy. She imagines what it would be like to meet the people who got her daughter to the hospital.

K. GARGANO: I would give them the biggest hug (laughter) - a huge bear hug. And I just want them to know how much their swift reactions probably saved my daughter's life.

FADEL: For Mike, he says he was a paramedic, and he always wondered about the fate of the people he helped. And when they thanked him, it meant everything.

M. GARGANO: I'd like to give that back to somebody, give that feeling that you really mattered to somebody, to us.

FADEL: He tears up and stops speaking. Now, the Garganos are not the only ones searching for strangers they call heroes. Facebook pages are popping up to try to reunite people with the strangers that helped them, pages like Finding My LV Hero or the Facebook group Reunite Route 91, named for the country music festival that the gunman targeted. Charmaine Miano founded the page.

CHARMAINE MIANO: Sometimes by knowing that you weren't there alone or knowing that someone else can help take care of you can provide the utmost form of healing.

FADEL: She works at the Las Vegas Police Department. As a Las Vegas native, she thought this was the way she could help. Elle's photo is posted in Miano's Facebook group in hopes that the couple somehow will recognize her. So are many others - a person searching for the owner of a black Chevrolet Avalanche that picked her and her fiance up with her wounded sister - her sister didn't make it, but the stranger did everything he could to get them to the hospital - the woman searching for the man who shielded her and her daughter from gunfire. Elle's mother, Katie Gargano, hopes they find their strangers.

K. GARGANO: Now Elle is going to live a beautiful life, the same life that she was destined to lead before this happened.

FADEL: She wants the man and the woman who drove her to the hospital to know that. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Las Vegas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
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