Sunday marked Jack Beaton's 23rd wedding anniversary to his wife Laurie — and he died protecting her during the Las Vegas mass shooting.
Early Sunday evening, Jack shared a picture of the happy Bakersfield, Calif., couple sprawled in the grass enjoying the third day of the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Less than two hours later, terror struck and he died while shielding his wife from the spray of bullets coming from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay.
Like many others at the festival, the pair mistook the sound of gunfire for fireworks — but that changed when a bullet whizzed past Laurie's shoulder.
“I’ve never experienced gunshots but when I felt air go right past my arm I told my husband, ‘I don’t think that’s fireworks,’ ” she told the Associated Press.
They threw themselves onto the ground and Jack laid his body on top of his wife's. "He told me, 'Get down, get down, get down,’ ” she said.
“He told me, ‘I love you, Laurie’ and his arms were around me and his body just went heavy on me,” she added.
Laurie quickly realized her husband had been shot and was dying on top of her.
“I screamed his name and he wasn’t answering me, there was a lot of blood,” she said, remembering how a nurse and an EMT instructed to put Jack on his side as she heard her husband struggling to breathe.
Laurie said she refused to leave her husband, but when the second round of bullets rang out, her friends and rescue workers begged her to get to safety. After the chaos was over, she returned to where she left her husband but he wasn't there.
The family believed that maybe the 54-year-old construction worker had been moved to receive help, so they called for prayer while they searched for him.
"He had been moved so we were optimistic that he’d received help,” she said.
After checking with several Vegas hospitals, Laurie filed a missing persons complaint on Monday, when she was later informed by the coroner's office that he was among the 58 dead.
“Lost my best friend. I love you so much more then you could ever imagine. Please watch over our family. You will forever be remembered as our hero! #atruehero,” the couple's son Jake wrote on Facebook shortly afterwards.
Laurie said that she always knew Jack would protect her. "I knew every day that he would protect me and take care of me and love me unconditionally, and what he did is no surprise to me, and he is my hero," she told the AP.
“They adored one another. She truly lost her soulmate,” Laurie’s mother, Lauraine Cook, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a greater loss obviously for the wife and the children. She’s my baby, an only baby, and we would do anything we could for her and for Jack. Not having another child or a son, he became more like a son to us.”
"He had a heart of gold," she said. "He would do anything for those who he loved — his family, his friends, even for strangers."