She was in the midst of the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando that killed 50 people and injured dozens more.
“I could see piles of bodies laying over the toilet seat and slumped over,” she recalled in a press conference on Tuesday. “There were handprints and blood. I looked the other way, and I could see blood everywhere. Some people were dead, and others were moaning in pain.”
That’s when the 20-year-old began to pray. “I made peace with God. I said, ‘God, if this is how I have to go, please just take my soul from my body.’ I just wanted to close my eyes and let God take me.”
For hours, Carter and her friends were in the bathroom with the gunman. During that time, he called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS.
After hanging up, the gunman asked the hostages a question. “Are there any black people in here?” Carter recalls him asking. Another patron replied that he was African American. “I don’t have a problem with black people,” the gunman told them. “This is about my country. You guys have suffered enough.”
Carter, a Philadelphia native, was in Orlando on vacation. She found Pulse nightclub in Google Maps and decided to go with her friends for a night out.
“We were having the time of our lives,” she said.
But now Carter was on the floor of the bathroom, waiting for the end. Suddenly, police began to break through the walls. The gunman reacted violently.
“As he heard the police outside, he said, ‘Hey, you!’ to someone on the floor and shot them. Shot another person, and then another person who was right behind me. Their body shielded me from the bullets.”
Ever since police killed the gunman and rescued Carter, she has struggled with survivor’s guilt. She read a poem to reporters that started with the line, “The guilt of feeling grateful to be alive is heavy.”
One of Carter’s friends, Tiara Parker, was wounded but alive. Another friend, Akyra Murray, was killed in the attack.
Angel Santiago Jr.
About 15 people were crammed into a handicap stall. Santiago, 30, took cover under a sink. “There wasn’t much protection there, he told reporters, “but I felt it was better than nothing.”
The shooter had shot at them through the wall, and then went into the other bathroom. “We hear more gunfire and people screaming,” Santiago recalled. “At that point we’re just trying to be as quiet as possible, because we didn’t want to attract him back to us, so we were just laying down.”
Santiago looked over at his friend, who had been wounded. “He was sweating, just looked overall really weak and in bad condition, and my thought process was, ‘You know, do we stay here and wait for the shooter to come back or do we try to leave?'”
He heard the police and dragged himself out from under the stall. Police took Santiago to the hospital. Although his friend was seriously injured, his condition is improving.
“I don’t know how I survived,” Santiago said. “I don’t even know how I’m alive today.”