FORT LAUDERDALE-HOLLYWOOD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, FLA. (WSVN) - One week ago today, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was under siege by a lone gunman who opened fire on travelers, murdering five of them and leaving countless injured.
At 12:54 p.m., Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief and the Broward County Aviation Department hosted a Moment of Reflection at the baggage claim area inside Terminal 2 for airport employees hoping to begin the healing process from last Friday’s attack.
As TSA and Delta Airlines workers returned to the baggage claim, many were crying and emotional as they thought about the chaos of that tragic day. Many people who were just passing by stopped to give thanks to the workers for their bravery and to show their solidarity.
The time of the ceremony honors the exact time gunman 26-year-old Esteban Santiago pulled out a semi-automatic handgun from his waistband and fired shots at passengers who were waiting around Carousel 3.
John Bush, with Broward Church of Christ, led a moment of silence that was airport-wide. Everyone stopped what they were doing for the moment.
“As we remember everybody that lost their life and how we’ve all been affected, let’s take a moment of silence,” Bush said.
During the ceremony, Sharief read off the names of the victims that lost their lives inside Terminal 2. “It is a hard thing to understand and to accept that five innocent people lost their lives over a senseless act of evil,” she said.
The five victims were tourists who had landed at FLL to catch cruises.
7News spoke to William White, a TSA worker who made a split-second decision that may have possibly saved his life. “I work in the back area, the secure area,” he said. “I was coming to the restroom. I forgot my cellphone that was on the charger. I went back to get it. When I came back to the door and swiped my badge is when I heard the gunshots, so that time frame of me going back to get my cellphone means I had to run into the bathroom that the man was coming out of, so that’s what hits me the most…” he said as he trailed off in tears.
Downstairs in baggage claim, Friday afternoon, travelers who spoke to 7News were very aware of the events that took place at the airport, just one week ago.
“It makes me a little sad to be here and going on a vacation knowing what happened last week,” Laura Pernice, a traveler, said.
It was still business as usual at the other carousels, as travelers retrieved their bags from other carousels adjacent to Carousel 3, which has been closed ever since the attack.
“Just thinking about it, it strikes me that at any given time anything can happen,” said passenger Jose Collazo. “We gotta be aware at all times as passengers. Everything has changed since 9/11, and unfortunately we have to be more aware and have more security at the airports nowadays.
Airport officials have reopened Carousel 3, Friday. Over the past week, they have changed the carpet and the paint in the area.
Friday’s ceremony gave airport employees the opportunity to reflect on the events of the past week and begin the healing process.
“If you’re that close to the possibility of losing your life, what I experienced was nothing like the families that these victims are experiencing right now,” White said, “and it’s tragic.”
However, for the people who were waiting in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2, on Jan. 6, their lives have now changed forever.
Several victims are still hospitalized at Broward Health Medical Center, two of whom are in critical condition.
According to Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue, these families need the community’s help for food.
If you’d like to donate gift cards from Publix, Winn-Dixie, Whole Foods or Fresh Market, please send to:
Fort Lauderdale Main Firehouse 2
528 NW 2nd St.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311
If you’d like to donate cooked food, please contact Julie at email@example.com.