Orlando massacre survivor describes horrific scene
One of the survivors of the nightclub terror attack says she went from having the time of her life with her friends to the worst night of her life in a matter of minutes.
Twenty-year-old Patience Carter was partying with her friends Akyra Murray, 18, and Tiara Parker, at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida Saturday night when terrorist Omar Mateen opened fire and killed 49 revelers in the gay club – including Murray, the youngest victim.
During a press conference on Tuesday at Florida Hospital Orlando, Carter recalled her memories of the shooting, read a poem about her survivor’s guilt and revealed previously unreported details about the terrorist – including the fact that he promised not to shoot any black people because they had ‘suffered enough’.
Carter, a college student in Philadelphia, says she was on vacation with Murray and Parker’s family (Murray and Parker are cousins), and that Murray’s parents dropped them off at the club that night for a girl’s night out.
It was around 2am when the first gunshots were heard. At first, Parker says she thought the noise was some over-the-top way the club owners were trying to get everyone to leave.
‘I was so confused. I was like, ‘Wow, a club would do all of this just to get people to leave their club?” she said. ‘I thought it was a BB gun at first, or the DJ playing some sound of gunshots. I didn’t think they were actually real gunshots.’
Nonetheless, Carter says the noise prompted a physical response and she dropped to the floor.
On the floor, she noticed her friends running to the bar, while she started reflexively scooting backwards – not aware that she was actually crawling out the exit.
Murray noticed where Carter was going and ran over from the bar to join Carter exiting the building.
Once they reached the safety outside, they realized that Parker didn’t make it out of the building so they decided to risk both of their lives and reenter the club.
What makes Carter feel so guilty is that Murray was later shot and bled out from her injuries, and may have survived if only she had told her to stay outside while she went back in to get their friend.
Back inside the club, the three friends reunited and then sought shelter with some other men in a handicapped bathroom stall.
The terrorist was quick to follow the victims into the bathroom though, and started unleashing a barrage of bullets – striking the man that had closed the door to their stall.
‘We were all scrambling around in the bathroom, screaming at the top of our lungs,’ Carter recalled.
It was when the terrorist stopped and left that she realized that she had been hit in the leg, and that her friends were shot too.
‘At that point we knew that this wasn’t a game. This was very real and this was something that was really happening to us right now.
Carter says Mateen did eventually return to their stall and that they feared he was going to shoot them again.
But this time he called out and asked if there were any black people hiding behind the doors.
Carter was too afraid to respond, but another black person did, giving an affirmative.
Surprisingly, that caused Mateen to put away his weapon.
‘I don’t have a problem with black people,’ the terrorist reportedly said. ‘This is about my country. You guys suffered enough.’
The notion that he ‘didn’t have a problem with blacks’ is, however, contradicted by the fact that he had already shot a number of them that night and statements from ex-colleagues who said he was openly racist and continually making derogatory remarks about blacks and hispanics.
Carter says she also heard some of the terrorist’s phone conversations with police during the three-hour stand-off, recalling that he spoke in Arabic at a certain point, pledged an allegiance to ISIS and said he was carrying out the shooting to stop America from bombing his country. Mateen was born in New York and is a U.S. citizen, but both of his parents immigrated to the country from Afghanistan.
The shooting took place on Latin night and many of those killed were from Puerto Rico, which has a large expatriate community in Florida.
Near the end of the standoff, police issued a warning to the survivors in the club, telling them to move away from the walls since they were going to break through.
It was then that Carter says the terrorist made three final executions – including a man who was shielding her body.
After SWAT team’s broke through the club walls, Carter says she as afraid she was going to drown ‘in bloody water’ since the force of the break-in caused the pipes to burst and blood was everywhere.
While some have questioned the three-hour wait to break into the club, Carter thinks that police did the right thing.
After being rescued, Carter learned that the bullets had shattered her right femur and also hit her left leg.
She continues to recover from her injuries at the hospital, alongside her friend Parker who is also on the mend.
Murray, however, did not make it. To deal with her survivor’s guilt Carter has been writing in the hospital, and she shared one of her poems on Tuesday titled ‘The guilt of being alive is heavy’.
She also says that she has spoken with Murray’s mother who has assured her that she did nothing wrong.