Yes, there were two shootings. The second one America didn’t hear about… Well you can hear it now.
I had arrived at terminal 1 realizing a lot of commotion with emergency vehicles. I asked my Uber driver what was going on and he had no idea. He dropped me off at departures on the first floor at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. I went up to the ticket agent for Southwest Airlines and asked her about the cop cars. She replied, “Oh you don’t know, there was a shooting at terminal 2 a little while ago, it’s safe now you’ll be able to board your flight to Havana.” Alarmed I quickly Googled “Fort Lauderdale Shooting”. I asked her where I can buy a pack of cigarettes, she said to go upto the third floor and there’s a newstand there.
Before going upto the third floor I decided to go to the crime scene and make a news report. This was my first news report. I did it with a lot of passion and pain for the victim that was reported dead, at the time there was one dead and several injured.
Afterwards I did what I had to do, went up to the third floor and sat down in the disabled passengers area on the corner street. That’s when the second shooting happened. I heard gunshots and people screeming. I quickly peaked over the balcony and looked down to the third floor, there was a man with a black hat on shooting at people. I heard more gun shots. I got up, ran, and took cover under some seats. Fearing for my own life I said my last prayer and the second thing I did was pull out my phone and make a very raw video.
Everything was happening so fast. After a few minutes things calmed down. And myself and the senior citizens sat down on the bench, some on wheelchair some on the bench. I realized there was an elderly Pakistani man I said “Assalamualaikum” to him and asked if he was OK. He didn’t respond, instead he asked, “What’s going on?” I told him there was a shooting downstairs but seems like things are calm now. He was in transit coming from Karachi, Pakistan visiting his brothers and sisters.
An undercover cop came running up the escalator with his badge in the air yelling and repeating “EVACUATE NOW!” Everyone started to panic again. I got up, noticed an elderly women needed to be pushed on a wheelchair and pushed her out the doors and settled her in. I went back to the brother from Pakistan.
I had flown back from Havana, Cuba to withdraw funds and planned on going back the next day. I was misinformed by Citibank that my debit card would work in Cuba. I had arrived in Havana 4 days earlier with 20 Canadian Dollars which converted to 15 Cuban Dollars. There wasn’t much information on the internet about what visa requirements Cuba had and I was under the impression that I would have to pay $25 upon arrival. Travel to Cuba was so new for Americans that there wasn’t much information available. Misinformed again, the ticketing agent told me I had to buy the visa prior to departure across from the counter at the travel agents from Cuba. I spent my last $100 bill for the visa, a little frustrated right before the flight boarded. I was able to survive 3 days with 15 CUC and the Cuban people were so hospitable that I got a room, food, and a driver for 3 days! If it weren’t for my driver, William Texido, to take me in I would’ve been on the streets in Cuba until January 18th with no money and nothing to eat. I would’ve been an American bum in Cuba. Of course I had backup plans. I was fortunate to hail William’s 1951 Chevrolet outside arrivals at Jose Martin International and recalling my Spanish from high school. I was speaking fluently as I had gone into panic mode.
I wasn’t expecting shootings at an American airport, specifically Fort Lauderdale Airport. Nobody was.
After I had safely placed the elderly woman I went to talk to the Pakistani Brother to see if he was okay and if he needed anything. He asked me to get me in touch with his brother in Texas. I got him connected. After the call I told him about the free Wi-Fi that was available at the airport and helped him connect his phone so that he could use WhatsApp. I remember him telling me later during the day that God had sent me to him like an angel. I was flattered but I thought and told him I was obligated to do what I was doing during the time of crisis. There weren’t any other Muslims there let alone Pakistanis that could speak the same language. I expressed my anger to him about how they had over 15 years to train for these types of attacks yet they still keep happening.
A bomb squad was brought as they announced on the PR system there’s no need to panic there’s been a suspicious package that had been discovered that they needed to make sure it was safe. We saw this all happening from the Terminal 1. A few minutes passed by and they announced their clearing the parking lots and bringing in a sniper team. The sniper team came and set themselves up all across the terminal facing the building that they were clearing out, the parking lot. One officer passed by me and said, “remember this date, January 6th, you were given a second life.”
As they were setting up everyone tried to find shelter as we were all exposed to a possible sniper. I set myself up in a corner and crouched down to my knees, with the public as a human shield. A newly-wed couple gave me odd looks… I told them “I’ve seen too many movies and played too many video games, I’m not getting the headshot today, if anything I’ll be playing dead.”
Another announcement came that they had cleared the buildings and it was safe. I got up and saw an ambulance pull up. I had walked upto the curb as they pulled out the stretcher-most likely for the 2nd gunman or other people that may have gotten hurt. They also brought some rations for the people at the terminal. After settling down a big red container and a big bag an EMT walked upto me and said, “Help yourself.”
I opened up the container and started handing out water to the elderly, women, children, and men, including airport staff. As I walked up and down the terminal it seemed that panic mode everyone was in started to fade away and a bonding started to ensue. I then went to see what was in the big bag. I tossed around bags of Doritos, chips, and crackers.
I was helping the wheelchair passengers go to and from the bathroom across from the terminal. They were very thankful. A little while later I bummed a cigarette from a Chinese woman at which point she said how great of a job I was doing. I asked her “What job? Making people laugh?” The entire time she thought I was a volunteer doing some kind of resue mission. I joked and said, “Rescue mission? I’m in transit just like you are.” She was surprised that I was in transit as other people laughed.
It was close to 5 o’clock when I started having symptoms, “What if the shooters were looking for me? To kill me?” I thought to myself. I was supposed to be on the first floor when the second shooting occurred maybe I was supposed to be there. I started conspring. I realized the evening meds I usually take at 6 PM I should take now before symptoms got worse. It was a mixture of paranoia and grandiose feelings. The meds kicked in 15-20 minutes later and the negative thoughts went away.
Ten hours had gone by when they announced they would start evacuating the stranded passengers to Port Everglades. The buses came, people started to bid farewell and get in line for the bus. People thanked me before I went inside the terminal to check the first floor and to see if the Starbucks was open. We exchanged numbers and business cards. I bid farewell, people were thanking me, I responded to everyone that what I was doing wasn’t anything special and doing good based on what Islam taught me as a Muslim.
There were mixed reports coming in at the airport. People were saying the first shooting the shooter wasn’t arrested but they said he was and others about a 2nd gunman. Whoever or it was he was apparently hearing voices before he went on to kill.
A little while later after I had done my Starbucks run (it was closed) I had gotten on the bus to get to Fort Everglades. The people on the bus recognized me and were happy to see me. We exchanged numbers and business cards again. I got a little impatient and saw there was a hotel up the block and asked the bus driver if I could get off. After I got off I saw there was a sushi restaurant across the street so I decided to have dinner. When I was done I started walking to the hotel when I heard someone calling my name from the back. I turned around there was a man asking me if I had dropped anything. I checked my pockets and it turned out the $500 I had withdrawn from the ATM weren’t in my money clip. I told him, “Yes, are you talking about the $500?”. “We’ve got it on the bus for you”. I was so glad, this was the cash I came for from Cuba! the same bus had only moved one block the entire 45 minutes I was having dinner. Sometimes you’ve just got to count your blessings.
A whopping $267 for the night at the hotel. Demand was high, supply was low. FDD Airport and Miami Airport were closed, all flights cancelled until 5 AM.
I was watching the news that was getting censored. Oddly enough, there were no reports of the second shooting. Instead, there was this FBI guy that went onto ramble some nonsense about how when people have fight-or-flight syndrome (it’s a syndrome now? I was taught in middle school that it was a reflex) and how there were reports of a 2nd shooting or a second shooter. Obviously someone had screwed up, someone at the FBI and intelligence and the county… they were covering each others jobs, in my opinion.
I dozed off without taking my night time sedatives. I guess I didn’t need them at the time. The lights and TV were on. I was dreaming that I was in heaven, it was one of the most relaxing dreams I had ever had. I woke up in a cold sweat to the phone ringing- it was my wife. She had been trying to rebook my flight with Southwest but was having trouble reaching someone at customer service. She missed me as well. I was happy to have her call me and told her to get some sleep and that I would call customer service. After the call I took I nice long bath. Undercover Brother was on while I rebooked my flight which wasn’t as much of nuisance as I was expecting it to be.
The morning came and I had breakfast at the hotel and got packed up and ready to get to the airport. I only had my messenger bag so I was traveling light. I knew I had to be at the airport early for my 11 AM flight to Havana. The shuttle dropped me off at Terminal 1, I walked in, got online, and was vigilantly observant. I was happy to see the same ticketing agent from the day prior, she was much more nervous, no smile on her face, just doing her job. She asked me to go to the Cuban travel agency across from her and get my stamp again. I said something charming which made her smile. She asked me to come back and that she would take care of me without having to get back in line. The Cuban travel agent recognized me from the day before and he said he was very happy to see me, I gave him a hug. As the other employee stamped the Southwest Airline envelope I asked, “Why aren’t they reporting the shooting that happened here?” Before he said anything, the other worker replied; “We had a staff meeting before the airport opened and they told us if anyone asks about the second shooting to say that it was a drill.” Rolling her eyes. We both knew what really happened. “Wow! Weren’t there more people killed? That doesn’t happen in a drill… Isn’t it unconstitional for the American government to stage a terrorist attack against its own people? Did anyone ask that?” She said, “No.” I asked her if I could record what she said but she asked politely not to.
I went upstairs to have a smoke. I ran into an airport staff member who came upto me hugged and thanked me. I told him it really wasn’t a big deal. It really wasn’t. The safety of the people was more important. At one point I asked him where the FBI’s press conference was being held, he didn’t know, another man from the staff was there with him who walked away.
As I walked to the TSA checkpoint I had a feeling I was being followed. From my peripheral vision I could tell there were two armed officers that were watching me. After getting off the escalator I looked behind me to see if they were still behind me. I got to the checkpoint .
“THAT GUY RIGHT THERE! DON’T LET HIM GO IN.” One of the two Customs and Border Patrol Officers shouted.
There was another passenger that had walked up right before me and there was some confusion but I knew they were referring to me. After pulling me aside and having me sit down they asked me a series of questions, one officer on the phone, both asking questions after questions, and a police officer watching and observing. An hour and a half went by. They checked everything in my bag. I had nothing to hide so I cooperated and answered all of their questions. I’ll save those questions for another set of questions, an interview, perhaps. I must’ve said something right when one of the officer’s decided to tell the other that “He’s fine, we can let him go.”
“You can board your flight. It’s been delayed.”
“Thank you, Officer. Thank you.”
As I got to the gate the plane was pulling up. I knew and the guys behind this knew why the flight was delayed. I did not want to stay in Fort Lauderdale another minute.