“I certainly love these two-hour domestic flights,” I said to Steve as week ago today. “Sure beats those 22-hour journeys with changing planes and 12-hour flights.” All our international mission trips have made us really appreciate direct flights inside the U.S.
As we walked toward baggage claim, I pointed to our left and said, “Isn’t it unusual for the check-in lines to be so close to baggage claim? I’ve never noticed that before.”
We went to the baggage claim area for Terminal 2 and easily retrieved our bags. I called our hotel and was told a shuttle would be there in about 20 minutes, so we lingered in the seats there for about ten minutes, then went outside.
We walked about a hundred feet to the hotel shuttle pickup area and drank in the beautiful sunshine and warm air. It seemed even better than usual since we knew the wind chill at home was around zero. This 75 degrees was wonderful.
We were on a little island, with shuttle pickup in front of us and the taxi lane behind us. Suddenly I noticed people running in the taxi lane—even an airport security guard. “Look at that,” I remarked idly, never thinking it had anything to do with us.
“They’re shooting!” the guard shouted. “Run!”
“Do you think this is real?” I asked Steve as we looked around. Then on the other side of the shuttle pickup street, I saw another security guard sprinting toward us shouting, “Run!” At that point we decided we’d better follow directions!
We each had a large rolling suitcase and a small roller bag, a carry-on. We took off, heading for Terminal 3 as others were doing, awkwardly pulling our luggage. I saw and heard a teenage girl screaming into her phone, “They’re shooting and I don’t know where to go!” She was sobbing as she yelled into her phone. I thought, Well, you’re surely terrifying the person on the other end of the phone when they can’t help you at all!
By then the cabs were backed up in their lane and a driver rolled down her window to ask, “What’s going on?” I quickly told her and shared her horrified look. Then I started running again and realized I couldn’t see Steve ahead of me. I briefly panicked but I kept running. Then I saw him looking back anxiously and we saw each other. He waved me toward him with the same relief I felt.
We ducked into Terminal 3 and tried to find out what had happened. It was a total pooling of ignorance; no one knew. Even the security guards there were asking people what they knew. I kept going back and forth from Steve inside to look outside in case I could learn what was happening. When the stream of running people had slowed down, I went in and told Steve we should be getting out and certainly not wait for a shuttle!
He agreed and quickly got in the line for taxis. A man in front of me kept saying, “I saw him! He was right beside me.”
“You saw the shooter?” I asked.
“No—I saw the man he shot. He was bleeding and trying to run but he couldn’t go far. I just kept running.”
He was in a group of six that couldn’t get into the taxi the dispatcher had signaled, so she gave us that car instead. The driver didn’t know any more than we did, but he was relieved to be heading out of the airport. As he drove in the one-way four lanes of traffic going out, we saw flashing lights and a siren and a police car zooming toward us. This was the first police we’d seen. We were all amazed that the police car was going so fast the wrong way on a one-way street. Later I realized it was his only way of getting in.
I said to the taxi driver, “Have you ever seen that before?”
“Never,” he said, obviously shaken.
He got us safely to our hotel and it was $22 well spent. In the lobby, everyone was watching the large television screens and we saw the bottom strip saying, “one dead and nine wounded in Fort Lauderdale airport shooting.”
We were stunned. Somehow, even though people were panicking, it didn’t seem real that people were actually dying just a hundred feet from us. We quickly checked in and were glued to the television for the next couple of hours. I just kept saying, “Thank you, Lord!” for sparing us when we had been so close to the tragedy.
I have no pat answers about this shooting, or the South Carolina church shooting, or the Orlando night club shooting, or Sandy Hook. I don’t believe God targeted any of those people to die. I’m pretty sure about that. But were certain people saved through God’s grace?
Many of us prayed and were prayed for that we would have a safe journey—perhaps some of those very people who died. But bad things happen, beyond our control.
Nothing is certain except salvation through Jesus and our hope of heaven. My hope is that those five whose lives were lost were believers in Jesus Christ, Savior of the world.