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CMU student witnesses Fort Lauderdale airport shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — Tricia Dwyer watched, and ran, as nearly 200 people sprinted through Florida's Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport terminal, screaming, ducking, and taking cover from a hail of gunfire.

The Central Michigan University senior from Saginaw was at the airport on Friday, Jan. 6, when a gunman opened fire in the luggage claim corridor. CNN reported five people were killed and eight were injured from gunshot wounds. Dozens, including Dwyer, were also harmed, due to the chaos created by the incident. 

The shooter was Esteban Santiago, a 26-year-old Iraq War combat veteran. He was taken into custody almost immediately following the incident, according to CNN.

Like so many around her, Dwyer's first instinct was to follow suit, and to seek safety with her family.

“It was such a blur,” Dwyer said. “We were waiting at the gate (when the shooting occurred), and ended up just running out to the luggage carrier.” 

A luggage carrier is another name for the shuttle hauling suitcases and baggage from the airport to the airplane.

Dwyer was returning to Michigan after vacationing with her brother and mother on a cruise to the Bahamas.

While fleeing down a flight of cement stairs, Dwyer said she tripped over her flip flops, severely scrapping and bruising her legs. Her brother, Kevin Dwyer, 19, was able to help her get to a luggage carrier.

She hid there with two other families for several minutes. Dwyer said they saw passengers being ushered to the tarmac outside by the airplanes. They quickly joined them, and waited there for several more minutes, which turned into hours, until the group was given clearance to leave.

Dwyer and her family returned to Michigan Sunday night, after renting a car and driving home. Besides her leg injuries, everyone in her family made it home safely. 

“It’s pretty bad. I can barely walk,” she said, “I think there’s just some bruises on my knee bone, and it’s so weird — I can’t really go up and down the stairs. The scabbing is not the part that hurts the worst, it’s just the bruises.”

Dwyer said she’s simply thankful to be back, and alive, and will be returning to CMU to complete her final semester.

“I just want everyone to be aware that things can change so fast,” she said. “You should always be aware of your surroundings, especially when you’re in public places. Know where the exits are, who’s around you and stuff like that. It’s so important.”