On the afternoon of January 6th at Fort Lauderdale- Hollywood International Airport, an estimated twelve thousand travelers were all caught by a bit of a surprise. A war veteran by the name of Estiban Santiago snuck his gun by airport security, killing five and injuring six people in terminal 2 baggage claim.
Lebanon High School junior Julia Garrard was making her way back home that afternoon, when plans had suddenly changed. Garrard was in Florida visiting family, her parents decided to stay for another week since Julia had to return to school the following week.
“I had got there a little after 1
2 and was on the phone with my parents when I suddenly heard police cars racing by outside and voices over the intercom.” said Garrard. Shortly after listening to the sirens, airport security had been stopped to help check the terminals.
“You do not just have a big group of people rushing out all at once for no reason, there was definitely something going on.” said Garrard. Everything had gone into chaos by then, many people confused on what was happening, Julia being the only one at that point aware there was a shooting going on.
Julia’s parents were calling her giving her updates even though they could not pick her back up due to police closing all roads leading away from the airport. “The whole time I just kept thinking, ‘oh my gosh, I just want to get on the secure side of all of this.’” Everyone was constantly checking their phones and social media to find out what was going on, because the airport employees were not telling them much of what was going on.
“My parents were constantly updating me, at one point they told me the shooter was detained, and them almost instantly, everybody’s phones starting ringing with calls from family and friends.” Everyone was left in shock that they did not even think to start running or anything, a lot of people just stood in awe. “They were the most chaotic moments I have ever experienced.” said Garrard.
“I am used to traveling light from exchange, and it was kind of an advantage to me because I did not have to stop and look for family, I just kept moving trying to get to safety.” she said. Everyone was left in shock that they did not even think to start running or anything, a lot of people just stood in awe. Julia has done a lot of traveling in her past, so when this situation came to hand, Julia was not completely shocked.
“I’ve been places before where they have had bomb threats and things like that go down before,” she continued, “These types of events should not stop us, we just need to learn from them.” said Garrard. According to Julia, the airport did not really have an evacuation plan set up for the situation at hand. Although, officers and airport employees were quick to escort everyone safely outside, as far away from the airport as possible.
“When you are in that kind of situation it is like fight or flight. I think the private airlines should say no to ammunition because it would prevent these kinds of attacks. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) could have had more helpful resources and ways to stay safe. It is something they need to be looking into for the future.” said Garrard.
Photos by of Julia Garrard