Patience Carter went from having the time of her life, to the worst night of her life in a matter of minutes.
That's how Carter, a Fox29 intern from North Philadelphiaand college student at NYU, described the horrific Orlando club shooting over the weekend. The world heard from Carter Tuesday night for the first time in a news conference, when she recounted the harrowing hours she spent locked in the bathroom with the gunman.
"I never thought in a million years that this could happen," Carter, 20, said from an Orlando hospital. "I never thought in a million years that my eyes could witness something so tragic."
"You laid beside individuals whose lives were brutally taken. The guilt of being alive is heavy."
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Carter, who was in Orlando with her friend Tiara Parker, 20, and Akyra Murray, 18. The three girls decided to go to Pulse Saturday night. They arrived just after midnight.
"Akyra was the life of the party, literally. Everybody loved her, everyone just adored her. Tiara Parker, who is her cousin, we were just all having the night that we dreamed of. It was the most beautiful bonding experience that any three girls could have on their first night out on vacation."
Just before 2 a.m., Parker had started to call an Uber for the girls to leave the club.
That's when they heard the gunshots.
Carter said she didn't realize the sound was gunshots at first, but instead a sound the club was playing, "like BB guns," to get clubgoers to leave.
Carter and her friends sought shelter in a bathroom with other clubgoers amid gunshots. The three women hid in a stall when Omar Mateen, identified as the gunman who killed 49 people that night, walked into the bathroom and began shooting.
In another stall, there were bodies "piled on top of each other on the toilet seat," Carter recalled from her wheelchair.
She had been shot in both legs, Parker in the side, and Murray was bleeding profusely from a wound to her arm. Murray, a recent graduate of West Catholic Prep, and Parker, both died in the shooting.
The gunfire stopped, and Mateen made a phone call.
He told 911 the reason he was shooting is "because he wants America to stop bombing his country," Carter said." Then he pledged his allegiance to ISIS.
After he got off the phone, Mateen started speaking in Arabic, though Carter said she didn't immediately recognize the language.
"And after that, he even spoke to us directly. "He said, 'Are there any black people in here?' I was too afraid to answer but there was an an African American male in the stall where most of my body was ... had answered 'Yes, there's six or seven of us.'"
"The gunman responded back to him saying, 'I don't have a problem with black people. This is about my country, you guys have suffered enough.'"
Carter later described how police burst through the bathroom wall and rescued the survivors.
As police called for people to move away from the wall, Mateen entered the stall that Carter and her friends were in.
"He said, 'Hey you,' to someone on the floor inside the bathroom and shot them. Shot another person. And then shot another person who happened to be directly behind me, who I'm told through the eyes of Tiara shielded me with their own body to make sure that I wasn't hit," Carter said.
"I don't know who that person is, I don't know the name of that person, but if they're somewhere watching...thank you, thank you for saving my life, literally."
Carter said the bullet had shattered her right femur bone and went through her left leg under the thigh.
"I'm still here."