By: Will Burchfield
Sunday night's mass shooting in Las Vegas brought Golden Tate back.
Back to Bellevue, Wash. in 2012. Back to a nightclub about a block from his house.
The Seahawks had just clinched a playoff spot with a win over the 49ers, and Tate was out celebrating with his teammates. It was the night before Christmas Eve.
They were at a place called Munchbar, a popular spot for the players to get together after a win. Tate was there with a big group of friends, including his brother and his girlfriend, Elise, who's since become his wife.
By this time, it was early in the morning of the 24th.
"Elise and I and a couple of my friends were just in a circle kind of hanging out, and next thing you know we heard gunshots," Tate recalled. "It all happened so quick."
Tate guessed the gunman was about 20 feet away. Immediately, he dove on top of Elise, who suffered a concussion when her head hit the floor.
"Out of reaction I just pushed her down, and was on top of her until the shooting stopped," Tate said.
When he felt it was safe to move, they ran into the nearest bathroom with then-Seahawks tackle Breno Giacomini.
"It was scary because (Elise) had cut her foot on glass as her heel came off and we were scattering, and she had a concussion so she was a little confused. I didn't know if she had gotten shot or not because I just saw blood, I just saw her bleeding," said Tate.
He frantically asked Elise if she had been hit. She had not. They made it out of the bar safely and rushed her to the hospital to ensure she was okay. She was.
"Probably one of the hardest things was having to call her parents at that time of the night and calmly let them know, 'Hey, your daughter's okay, but this is the situation,'" Tate said. "It's something that kind of scarred both of us."
For Elise, the scars are somewhat literal. The gunshots went off so close she suffered permanent damage to her eardrum, leaving her sensitive to a certain tone of sound.
But the scars for both of them are more deeply psychological. They feel a certain unease whenever they're in crowds. They're constantly eyeing escape routes. They're careful not to stray too far from safety. Their guard has been risen, and they can't quite let it down.
"When we're going places, no matter where we are, we try to look at the exits because you don't have much time when something like that happens. We find the exits, and if we're out and about we try to hang out within reach of the exits so we can get out of there quickly," Tate said.
The emotional trauma of the incident weighed on Elise for a long time. A person died that night, and it's hard not to wonder what might have happened had she not been so lucky to escape. The line between life and death was suddenly razor thin.
"She wasn't the same for a while. You can't help but to think what if one of those stray bullets -- I mean, stray bullets don't have eyes. They just happen," Tate said. "We both felt so helpless. You hear gunshots and you can't find them, the first thing you're going to do is just drop and pray that one of them doesn't hit you."
Tate said primal instincts kicked in when he hurled himself on top of Elise.
"I'm glad I reacted that way," he said, adding with a smile, "it would have been hard explaining, 'Baby, I tried.' As a man, I feel like I am called to protect and cherish the woman that I'm dating and now married to."
As for Elise's concussion, Tate said, "If that's the worst thing that happens, we're doing pretty dang good in that situation."
Sadly, many people in similar situations aren't so fortunate. Just ask Tate's teammate, Miles Killebrew, a Las Vegas native who has friends who were shot in Sunday's massacre. Those victims will likely carry a life-long burden.
"Right now, you don't feel safe unless you're in your home," said Tate, who grew up in the Nashville suburbs, the site of yet another mass shooting last week.
"In Antioch someone ran into a church and was killing people. That's just mind blowing. I just don't understand what's going on," Tate said.
He shook his head, as if trying to rid himself of a memory. But he'll live with Bellevue and Munchbar and Christmas Eve in 2012 forever. So will his wife, who's pregnant with their first child.
For Tate, the prospect of fatherhood is a joy. It's also daunting, considering what he's seen.
"Now you're definitely living for someone beside yourself, whether you're ready for it or not. I want my daughter to grow up with her dad there. It's something that I think about now," said Tate. "I want to go home to my daughter, I want her to have a dad. I want her to have incredible memories of both of her parents."
Read Elise Tate's reaction to the Vegas shooting here.
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