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People are calling Jonathan Smith a hero, but he considers that label an exaggeration.
The 30-year-old father of three got shot in the neck while helping dozens of people trying to escape from the scene of a deadly mass shooting Sunday night at a country music festival in Las Vegas.
Smith told TODAY's Miguel Almaguer that his initial intent was simply to push his three nieces — ages 17, 18 and 21 — to safety.
“Honestly, that was my main intention, was just to get them out of there,” he said.
Once they were in the clear, something made Smith turn back around.
“Why? Honestly, I don’t know,” he said.
But when he did, he saw numerous people falling down, trampled in the stampede running toward any exit available.
“I basically helped most of them get up. There was one girl that was pinned down right at the exit — her and a couple of people were pinned down. I think she was just shell-shocked to move," he recalled. "I kind of basically just grabbed her and said, ‘We got to go.’”
Smith is being credited for helping more than two dozen people reach safety, but he insists he didn’t have heroics in mind, not with three children back home.
“I hate the fact that my kids almost lost me,” he said, getting emotional. “That's in the back of my head, my kids. My family."
A sole gunman killed 59 people and injured more than 500 after opening fire on the crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel across the street. Smith realized he had been shot after being shoved to the floor and realizing he couldn't get up because his arm had gone numb.
“I felt a warm liquid coming down my arm,” he said.
He started yelling he had been shot and was aided by someone who identified himself as an off-duty San Diego police officer, who helped flag down a vehicle that took him to the hospital.
“Basically, the bullet was lodged in my neck right above. It fractured my collarbone, it fractured my second rib, and it bruised my lung,” he said.
While being treated at a Las Vegas hospital, a Washington Post reporter approached him for an interview. She then asked for a picture, and that shot of him with a bandaged neck quickly went viral, along with a story of his heroics.
“I really didn't expect it to circulate the way it's doing now,” he told Almaguer. The photo has been retweeted more 116,000 times as of Tuesday afternoon.
“Everyone’s saying, dude you’re a hero, you’re this. I’m not a hero,” he said. “I'm just someone that just basically decided, you know what, I'll put someone's life before my own. “
And he doubts the estimates being given of how many people he may have saved.
“I wouldn't say it was 30. At least, about 15-20 people. It wasn't 30,” he said, before admitting that he was working off adrenaline that night. “Then again, I really could be wrong because everybody was just running left and right.”
Smith originally drove to Las Vegas to celebrate the birthday of a brother. The pair drove up with Smith’s three nieces to attend the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival.
"I'm going to remember this. This was my first concert, I can't forget it now," he said.
Smith's sister-in-law set up a GoFundMe account to help with his medical bills and other expenses until he can return to work.
Smith said he has no regrets about the actions he took, despite the injuries he sustained.
"I just would do what anyone would do," he said.
And in hindsight, he’d do it again.
“No one needs to die like that."