People meet the loves of their lives in many different ways. Dating pools used to be limited to whoever was within traveling distance, but those boundaries have all but disappeared with modern travel and communication.
For Bryan Hopkins and Nicole Ruffino, the circumstances of their initial meeting are terrifying. Far from typical, the surreal meeting took place while tragedy unfolded before them.
Hopkins, 49, is the lead singer for the country group Elvis Monroe. He was in the crowd of Las Vegas concert-goers on Oct. 1, 2017.
He bumped into a 25-year-old named Nicole Ruffino, who recognized him and asked to take a photo with him. After the cheery selfie, the two continued to listen to the music until the shooter began firing into the crowd.
“It was crazy, you could hear the sound of gunfire, crack, crack, crack, crack, but we didn’t know where it was coming from,” Hopkins told the Daily Mail. “People were running, screaming.”
Despite the chaos, Hopkins had a plan. He knew the layout of the grounds better than most and led a group of about 30 to hide in a refrigerator trailer behind the stage.
“I wanted to get everyone to safety but rather than run with the crowd I took people backstage,” he said.
One of those 30 people he led to safety was Ruffino. He had spotted her in the crowd and grabbed her hand and the hand of her friend, ushering them to safety.
“Bryan did save me that night,” Ruffino admitted, “but in the next few months I fell in love with a warm, caring, creative man — and I am grateful for that.”
“That night something inside me felt like I had known him my whole life. And there was a natural attraction too, but with all the other emotions of that time and what we were all going through, love was not on my mind.”
As the days passed and the two kept in communication, their love grew. A crucial moment for Hopkins was when he and Ruffino were interviewed together after the incident.
“It really was like the key moment in my life,” he said. “I held her hand and fell in love with her instantly. It felt like the most natural thing to hold her hand again as we did some interviews together.”
“It was subconscious and I truthfully have never wanted to let it go.”
Being from different worlds, Ruffino was initially concerned that they wouldn’t be a good match, but Hopkins’ love was for her as a person, not her status.
“He loves me unconditionally, and for a while, I always wondered why he was interested in me given that he is a successful artist and I am not in the entertainment business,” she said. “But I always remember he said to me: ‘I don’t care if you work at Taco Bell – it is not what you do, it is who you are.'”
The couple went through a scare a month after the shooting when Ruffino was hospitalized for viral meningitis, but fortunately, she was able to pull through and the two have continued on together.
“October 1 will always stay with us because of that horrific tragedy,” Hopkins said, “but now this first anniversary is not just about remembering those that lost their lives, but celebrating how lucky I am to have met Nicole.”
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