Rachel Sheppard didn't plan on going to the Route 91 concert. As she puts it, it was "a last minute thing." A friend of hers had an extra ticket, so she decided to join.
The 26-year-old says when the shots started, she remembers hitting the floor. Those around her realized she had been shot, and shots were continuing to go off. One of the girls in her group was with her and screamed for help.
That's where Jake comes in.
Jake, a total stranger, says he heard a girl screaming, so he stopped. He realized she needed help, so he helped carry Rachel to the medical tent. When shots would start, they would quickly drop to the ground. Then, when there was a break, they would continue toward the tent.
When they got there, both Jake and Rachel remember the medical tent as chaotic and full. Jake says people were running around yelling out what to do to help those with gunshot wounds. Rachel was bleeding excessively, so Jake took off his shirt and used it to stop the bleeding.
Rachel says there were moments when she thought she wouldn't make it.
"There were a couple times where I was... I was prepared. I was like this is it, I'm going to die," said Rachel.
She asked to call her boyfriend to say a last 'I love you.' He had just landed in Italy for a trip when he got the news of the shooting.
Eventually, it was Rachel's turn to leave the tent and make it to the hospital. When they got to the ambulance, they were told it was too full and they wouldn't fit.
"I asked if I could hold her in the corner and they said that would be fine, so I held her all the way to the hospital," remembers Jake.
In the ambulance, there were other victims with gruesome injuries, so Jake says he tried to keep Rachel focused on herself. He asked her to tell him stories and keep talking to him. Rachel remembers focusing her energy on keeping her breathing under control, a lesson she attributes to her father. She says she's learned from him that in a situation like that, keeping positive mentally can be what saves your life.
When they got to the hospital, Rachel says the scene was unimaginable.
"The floors were covered in blood... the walls. It was absolutely insane. It was like out of a movie," said Rachel.
There was an organizational system where people were being labeled based on how bad their injuries were. Rachel started throwing up blood, so hospital staff said she needed to go into surgery.
Rachel says one of her last memories before going into her first surgeries was a doctor coming up to her and giving her a boost of confidence.
"He grabbed my face and he said 'we're going to do this. We're going to get you out of here.' Then he said 'you're going to f***ing make it and you're going to f***ing do this.' And I went under and I think that was a huge mindset like right before I went under," said Rachel.
It ended up taking 13 hours for doctors to figure out exactly where Rachel had been shot. She had 40 units of blood put in her before they figured it out. It turns out she had so much blood loss because she'd been shot in her aorta. Doctors determined she'd been shot three times, in her spleen, liver and aorta. They told her she should've died within minutes after being shot in the heart. Her sternum also had to be cut and wired shut.
It took about a week and half for Rachel to regain consciousness and feel fully aware. Rachel remembers being in the hospital and having doctors stand in her doorway and stare at her in disbelief.
"They couldn't believe that I was awake and they would tell me that, you know, 'you're a miracle,'" she remembers.
She would respond to them saying "no you're the miracle, look at me! Look what you did!"
Rachel was initially told she would be in the hospital for three to six months. She defied those odds and now, six weeks after the shooting, is doing well, back home in Tehachapi. She's in physical therapy, working to rebuild strength. She can't do simple tasks like bend over or turn around, which she says can be frustrating.
In addition to building physical strength, she's also working on her mental health. She says it's hard for her to go places alone, not knowing what could happen.
"It sucks because I'm a very independent person, so I like to go do things on my own and now I don't know if I could ever do anything alone, not having somebody by my side," said Rachel.
Thankfully, Rachel has a strong support system. She has friends who stayed by her side through her time in the hospital, her boyfriend and her new friend Jake.
Jake stayed updated on Rachel's condition after the shootings once he made it home to his wife and three kids in Ventura. Since then, their friendship has grown. They both agree they have a bond that will never be broken. Even after saving Rachel's life, Jake stays humble.
"No, I’m definitely not a hero. The true heroes protect us every day. I was just doing something that I had to do because I was given the opportunity and I think that’s all it was," said Jake.
The two both agree they value life more now. Rachel feels there's a deeper purpose to life now. She's not exactly sure what that is, but she's determined to find it.
"I look at life and think I should have died and how am I still alive and it's amazing to see that my life was truly meant to be. I'm meant to be here," said Rachel.