Congratulations have been pouring in for proud new parents who have a lot to be thankful for.
Kami Biorkman and her husband Elijah were just preparing to leave for the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas last year when they learned about a sweet surprise: Kami was pregnant! This news was especially amazing considering she had suffered an ectopic pregnancy the year before, which significantly dashed her hopes of having a successful pregnancy.
In an interview with PEOPLE.com, Kami described her excitement and nerves as she worried about losing this baby, too. After venturing more than 200 miles from their Yucaipa home, the California couple spent three days under the Las Vegas lights, listening to country music with 22,000 other music fans at the event.
With the surprise of her pregnancy always on her mind, Kami was especially careful to stay far away from alcohol and the marijuana smoke that were so overwhelming at the concert and could potentially harm her unborn baby. Little did she know that this protective maternal instinct would save her life, as well as the lives of her husband and her parents who were also at the concert with them.
On Sunday evening, as country music superstar Jason Aldean closed out the show, Kami became more and more worried about the smoke filling the air, so she and her family headed farther back in the crowd.
And that’s when tragedy and horror unfolded. As Aldean sang his final song and got ready to leave the stage, a series of loud bangs erupted. The sounds that many initially thought were fireworks were actually deadly gunfire coming from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel, where 64-year-old gambler and real estate businessman Stephen Paddock was firing a relentless stream of bullets into the crowd.
“At first, I didn’t realize it was bullets that were going off. I had no idea they were gunshots,” Biorkman recalled in her interview with PEOPLE.com. “I thought they were fireworks. I was looking around to see where the noise was coming from and people were already running towards us, and my dad turned around and said, ‘Get up and run!’ ”
As the bullets continued to rain down on the terrified and confused throng of concertgoers, the family sought refuge behind a row of lockers and tried to figure out their escape.
“We took cover at the lockers because the bullets were still spraying, and everyone’s upset and crying and people are laying on the floor,” Biorkman also said in her PEOPLE.com interview. “When we realized it was gunshots, I honestly couldn’t believe it was happening again — my first pregnancy didn’t end the way we wanted it to, and I was terrified it was happening again, it was repeating the cycle that I was going to lose another baby.”
Thankfully, the family was able to make it to their truck without injury, and two other couples hopped into the truck bed as they sped to a safer area. In the span of 10 minutes from 10:05 to 10:15 p.m., Paddock fired over a thousand rounds into the crowd, wounding more than 500 people and killing 58 innocent concertgoers. When Las Vegas police officers stormed into his hotel room, they discovered him dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The massacre is now the deadliest mass shooting by a lone individual in our country’s history.
The traumatic event has had a profound impact on everyone who was there, especially Kami and Elijah Biorkman. The couple healed from the horrifying ordeal by focusing on her pregnancy. Nine months after the shooting, Kami gave birth to baby girl Rosalie on June 14. She credits their newborn daughter with saving the lives of her parents and grandparents before she was even born.
“If I wasn’t pregnant with her, we would have stayed up front and hung out with the rowdiness,” Biorkman added in her interview with PEOPLE.com. “If we had not moved back, I’m not sure we would have walked away from that concert. She’s here, and looking at her now, it’s a wonder that we ever lived without her. I’m just in that new parent awe. It’s amazing, and now that she is here in our arms, we feel like we can finally close that chapter on what happened in Vegas.”
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