By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Office of Public and Employee Communications
Photos courtesy Sgt. Todd Wienke
California City Correctional Facility
Correctional Sgt. Todd Wienke and his wife Oshia, who survived the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017, chose to reclaim the date on the first anniversary of that day by saying “I do” in the city where they almost lost their lives. During the shooting, Wienke was hit by three bullets. The sergeant received CDCR’s Medal of Valor for his actions during the shooting.
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“Both my wife and I independently knew when and where our wedding had to take place the moment I asked her (to marry me),” Sgt. Wienke said. “We wanted to turn the memory of the date from a negative to a positive for not only us but also for family, friends, and other survivors. Our daughters couldn’t talk about Las Vegas or the events of Oct. 1 without tearing up. They thought of it all as the date and place they almost lost us. This was our attempt to ‘take the day back,’ as my wife puts it.”
They had mixed feelings about being back in Las Vegas on the first anniversary of the shooting but were determined to turn Oct. 1 into something positive.
“We have as you can imagine, been to Las Vegas many times over the last year preparing for the wedding,” he said. “This particular time was different in that so many other survivors were (in the city) as well and so many (memorial) events were planned during the same time. Most of these were somber events and while we understand that some people, probably most people would remember the year anniversary in that way, we wanted to represent something different.”
He said it’s surprising more people didn’t lose their lives on that day.
“The fact remains that over 1,300 rounds were fired from an elevated position into a standing room crowd of over 10,000 people with very limited exit or cover options. I believe it is a miracle more people were not killed,” he said. “Also while what I saw as it was happening was tragic and horrifying, it was also very inspiring at the same time. I personally saw hundreds of people putting their lives at risk doing incredible things for total strangers or people they barely knew. This is a testimony to the American spirit in all of us. How can you not be inspired by that? And we did visit the healing garden and do some of those things privately after the wedding.”
Less than two weeks after the shooting, he popped the question to Oshia. While he was already planning to ask, he didn’t think he should wait.
“I think over the past year we have not put things off for tomorrow if we can do them today. We value the time we have with family and friends and try hard to see them more often. An example of this is the proposal. I had intended to do that on the five-year anniversary of us meeting, Dec. 12, 2017, but it only took me 12 days after the shooting to do that. The time and place seemed right so I spontaneously asked her. I didn’t even have a ring yet. We live more like that now,” Wienke said.
The couple received media attention but they wanted the overall message to be positive.
“We knew what we wanted to do and we were clear on our motivations behind those decisions. What we didn’t expect was the enormous amount of attention that came with it. While some have criticized that decision I would have to say that most of the feedback has been very positive,” he said. “The media attention allowed us the ability to reach people with that message. We have received so many comments on how what we have done has helped them to look at things differently. Other survivors have told us that our story has helped them heal and find a sense of closure. We had one rule with all the interviews we did. That rule was there was to be no mention whatsoever of the shooter. Most of them stayed true to that request. One station (Fox 5 Las Vegas) even promised to be 100 percent positive in their entire reporting for that day which in turn gave the people of Las Vegas a positive viewing choice option.”
He said they have no regrets regarding the decision to wed on the first anniversary of the shooting.
“The biggest benefit was the smiles on our daughters’ faces during the entire weekend of our wedding,” he recalled. “We will forever first and foremost remember Oct. 1 as our wedding day and a happy day. So I think we succeeded in our goal.”