ORLANDO, Fla. — When Omar Mateen walked into Pulse nightclub in Orlando Sunday spraying bullets into the crowd, 49 people were killed and many others thought they would never make it out alive.
Some were able to escape on their own as the shooting continued, others played dead. Many of the victims had to be dragged from the building bleeding by police officers, who themselves were in danger of being shot.
, of Philadelphia, had just arrived in Florida for the first time when she went out to Pulse for a night of fun. %
By the end of the night, wounded and bloody, she was praying for God to take her soul from her body.
“We were all getting hit by bullets,” she said. “At that point, we knew this wasn’t a game, this was very real.
[WATCH: Patience Carter reads a heartfelt poem about the night of the attack]
“This was really happening to us. We went from having the time of our lives to having the worst night of our lives in a matter of minutes.”
"The guilt of being alive is heavy." Patience Carter shared an emotional poem after surviving the Orlando shooting. More: at.wftv.com/1PsdrAf "Tengo remordimiento por estar viva" dice Patience Carter, quien compartió un emotivo poema después de sobrevivir el tiroteo.Posted by WFTV Channel 9 on Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Survivor Angel Colon, having been shot numerous times, thought he was going to bleed to death before anyone could get to him.
He fell to the floor after his leg was shattered by three bullets. %
Terrified club-goers trampled over him as they tried to escape, and lying wounded on the floor, he could see that Mateen was shooting already lifeless bodies, just to make sure they were dead.
“I’m next,” he thought. “I’m dead.”
He very nearly was, but the gunman’s poor aim saved his life when a shot aimed at his head hit his hand instead.
Mateen walked away and then Colon heard something that seemed unbelievable, the voice of a rescuer calling out in the darkness.
“He yells, ‘Who’s alive?’” Colon said. “I start yelling, ‘I’m alive, please grab me, please grab me.’”
[WATCH: Angel Colon describe the attack and the emotional meeting with the office who saved him]
Miguel Leiva, a 29-year-old father and cancer survivor from Miami, remembered the unspeakable horror of being held hostage by Mateen in a bathroom.
He was one of the few people in the room who made it out alive. %
“Where I was at, there was 30 of us and only five of us walked out. Everybody is dead,” he said. “People were kneeling, praying and he killed them.
“And I was like, ‘I’m going to die in this club'."
['I just went to have a good time' - Watch as Miguel Leiva recounts the near deadly encounter]
When Mateen started shooting, “there was nowhere to go,” Leiva said. “There was no exit. There was no window to break to get out. So I just ran into the bathroom.”
Leiva was finally able to escape when SWAT officers punched holes in the walls of the club with a battering ram.
#ORLANDOSTRONG Look at the response to the call for help with blood donations!Posted by Greg Warmoth WFTV on Sunday, June 12, 2016
Glad to be alive, Leiva also feels guilty because he got out and so many people didn’t.
Survivor Fred Johnson said the fact that he's still breathing is nothing short of a miracle.
He was at Pulse with a group of friends celebrating a graduation when the night flipped from celebration to horror.
“The shots came out consecutively, like, right behind each other, so we thought it was the music,” Johnson said. “But come to find out, it was someone that was shooting in the club.”
He ran to the restroom to find his friends but quickly realized they weren’t there and he needed to get out of the club immediately.
“I was unable to locate (my friends) when I went to the bathroom,” he said. “But I did locate someone that was trying to use me as their human shield. %
“They all packed themselves into the bathroom stall and tried to close the stall and people were trying to get in there.”
“That’s when I decided that I couldn’t stay in there, because if (Mateen) were to come into the bathroom, I knew I’d be shot,” he said.
Johnson decided to make a run for it, and when he got through the exit and cleared the buildint, he thought he was safe.
That’s when he was hit by two bullets – one in his right hip, another in the left arm.
At the risk of being shot himself, a complete stranger ran to Johnson’s side, took off a bandana and used it to stop Johnson’s bleeding.
He never got the man’s name.
“If I were to see him again, I’d tell him thank you,” Johnson said. “He tried his best to keep my mind occupied on something else and to not pay attention to the wound, to have faith in dialogue. So I was very thankful for that.”
The victims of the Orlando shooting. See their faces. Know their names. http://at.wftv.com/1Xm8Kj9Posted by WFTV Channel 9 on Monday, June 13, 2016
Survivor Marcus Gooden was like everyone else at Pulse nightclub Sunday: he was there to have fun and hang out with friends on what was supposed to be a normal night.
Gooden was at the bar when the shots started flying.
“I fell to the floor,” he said. “People are just, oh my Lord, people are just falling on the floor.
“Blood is here, blood is there."
Then Gooden got a glimpse of Mateen, who was holding a rifle and a handgun.
“He just stood there with this look on his face,” Gooden said.
Lying motionless on the floor, he waited, breathing in the smell of gunpowder, his ears still ringing from the blasts of Mateen’s rifle.
“I played dead for about five minutes,” he said. “(Mateen) was shooting, shooting. I could hear him in another room, (I could) hear people screaming. I’m getting stepped on.”
There were several people around him with gunshot wounds and Gooden tried to keep them calm.
“(I told them), ‘It’s going to be OK. Get out and get away,’” he said. “’We are in this together. If we die together, we die together.’”
When Mateen barged into a different room, Gooden decided it was time to get up and get out.
He jumped over a wall and sprinted to the 7-Eleven across the street, hoping the others would follow.
“I don’t know if they made it out or not,” he said.
Cox Media Group