In a sea full of cowboy hats and cutoff jeans on Sunday night, Cassidy Huff was rocking a bald head and contagious joy.
After missing out on the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival last year due to it being sold out, Cassidy’s mother, Kelley, surprised her in April with tickets to the country event.
“For her birthday this year and as something to look forward to for her as she went through a grueling year of chemo, I bought tickets back in April for her and me to attend,” Kelley wrote on Facebook. “We were worried she would not be able to go as it was so close to her last treatment. But, she gained enough strength and 5 weeks post chemo we went!”
As we now know, the festival wound up being the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. But before the terror and destruction, before evil slithered its way in, there was joy.
Kelley, who was reluctant to post anything about their experience at the concert this past weekend, decided to focus on the good. She opened up on social media with gratitude and praise for the incredible people who made their three days at the festival memorable in the best ways.
“I am so thankful for every concert goer, perfect strangers, who came up to Cassidy and gave her a high-five, or a fist bump, or a hug, offered words of encouragement or shared their stories of a loved one who is fighting or fought cancer. It was so heartwarming to feel the love from people we didn’t even know and it made me so happy.” She continues, “I reflected on the last year and how far we had come and how happy my daughter was and I savored that moment having her alive and standing next to me at a fun event.”
One stranger in particular stood out in Kelley’s mind as someone who needed to know how grateful she was.
“I am so thankful for that unknown, shirtless cowboy who came up to Cassidy and said, ‘I want to dance with you…just follow my steps.’ He shuffled his feet a bit, twirled her around, dipped her and set her down leaving her with a big kiss on the top of her bald head. She had the biggest smile. It brought her joy. Good, great, awesome people were at that festival.”
The Nevada-based mother-daughter duo navigated the busy concert venue for three days. On the last night, rather than standing at the front near the stage like they had, Kelley and Cassidy opted to sit near the back. They watched the people, and absorbed the beauty that surrounded them.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘What an awesome place to be right now.’ So many happy, smiling and peaceful people gathered in one place.”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before bullets began raining down on those happy people. Kelley says as soon as she heard shots being fired, she called her husband, who directed her in what to do—run as fast as they can. He stayed on the phone with her the whole time, helplessly listening to the screams and gunshots on the other end.
“To avoid being trampled, I practically picked Cassidy up and threw her through a pretzel stand or some sort of serving equipment and crawled through behind her and we ran as fast as we could. Just as we crossed the street, Cassidy collapsed behind a car, her frail body could not go anymore.
Before I could even try to think what to do next, an off-duty LAPD officer scooped her up in his arms and said to keep running, we can’t stay here. His sweet girlfriend grabbed my hand and pulled me along. A few minutes later, we took cover behind another big truck when a retired Long Beach police officer told us to keep moving and his daughter, who is also a Long Beach police officer, put Cassidy on her back and ran. He told his wife to take us to their car and get us home and come back for him later. What a selfless thing to do.”
With the help of these strangers, Kelley and Cassidy were able to exit the parking garage before the streets were put on lockdown, and they made it home—safely—just an hour after chaos broke out.
“Amazing. As my husband has said, this was no coincidence. Our escape was too perfectly orchestrated to not have had God’s hand in it. For whatever reason, it was not our turn to go that night.”
Kelley says she’s heartbroken for those who lost their lives, were injured or simply just had to experience the terror of that night. She says she can’t help but wonder what happened to each and every person who acknowledged Cassidy and her fight against cancer.
In hoping to thank at least one of those strangers, Kelley posted the photo of that shirtless cowboy dancing with her daughter. And after being shared thousands of times, the Internet found Darin Wells, who has reportedly connected with the family.
“Healing will take time,” Kelley closes. “I must thank each person who assisted us Sunday night and got us safely home to my husband and my other three little girls. I LOVE YOU LIKE I HAVE KNOWN YOU FOREVER AND I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU!”
Our prayers are with everyone involved. Grateful for these beautiful strangers who continue to remind us this week that even in the midst of darkness and evil, there is still SO MUCH GOOD in the world.