Patience Carter lay on the floor with gunshot wounds to both her legs while her captor, gunman Omar Mateen, terrorized her and several others in a bathroom at the Pulse nightclub.
“I never thought in a million years my eyes could witness something so tragic,” Carter said as she read her poem, saying that the “guilt of being alive is heavy.”
Carter talked about her friend Akyra Monet Murray, who was one of the 49 victims killed in the shooting.
“She was the life of the party, everyone loved her, everyone adored her,” Carter said, detailing her night out before the shooting with Akyra and her cousin, saying they found Pulse by Googling gay clubs and were having a great time.
Carter said she and Akyra got out of the club as gunshots began and went back inside to find Akyra’s cousin when they became trapped in the bathroom.
The gunman started shooting through the bathroom stall walls when the gun became jammed, Carter said. She was shot in the leg and pinned under another person.
Carter said she heard the gunman make the phone call to 911, where he told authorities if they raided the club that he had snipers outside. She said said through hearing the conversation with 911, “He wanted America to stop bombing his country,” Carter said. “He wasn’t going to stop killing people until he felt that his message was out there.”
The gunman then addressed the people directly, asking “are there any black people in here? I don’t have a problem with black people, this is about my country, you guys suffered enough.”
Carter said police then rescued them from the bathroom.
Angel Santiago told his story from a stretcher, detailing how he ran into the bathroom and hid in a single handicap stall with 15 to 20 people.
Santiago said he could start to smell the gunpowder as the gunman got closer to the bathroom, then bullets started going through the bathroom stall. Santiago was shot two times and grazed by a third bullet.
“I kept hearing gunfire and thinking: When is it going to stop?” Santiago said. “I was in a pool of blood, I wasn’t sure whose it was.”
After the gunfire stopped, Santiago said he couldn’t walk he dragged himself little by little out of the bathroom stall, crawling over bodies and waived the light on his phone to signal to an officer inside of the club for help.
“I’m grateful to be alive because after seeing what occurred, I don’t even know how I’m alive today,” Santiago said.
The Florida Hospital surgeon who operated on the victims, Dr. Brian Vickaryous, also spoke to the media.
More than 50 were injured in the shooting at Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning.
The gunman barricaded himself in the bathroom with hostages and called 911, pledging his allegiance to ISIS, according to the FBI. He was killed in a gun battle with Orlando police.