Arizona woman waiting for luggage left during chaos of Ft. Lauderdale airport shooting

Posted at 9:48 PM, Jan 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-11 00:36:12-05

A Valley family is still waiting to get their luggage back from Ft. Lauderdale Airport but they already feel lucky to have escaped with their lives.

Maritza Cartee and her husband arrived at the airport Friday, just after a shooting left five people dead in a neighboring terminal. Police were still on scene and she read on social media the suspect already been arrested. When security let them through to their gate, she figured they were safe.

Waiting at their gate she says everything changed when they heard three, loud, distinct pops go off and they, along with everyone around them, dove to the ground thinking there was another shooter in their terminal.

“I told my husband ‘Okay this is it because those noises were really close to us,’ and I said ‘This is it, I don’t know how we’re gonna get out of this one,” said Cartee.

The next thing she heard was a security guard telling them to run. They were herded into a jetway and eventually directed onto the tarmac.

“Everything turned into chaos, the people were screaming, they were falling, they were pushing, they were crying,” Cartee remembers.

They had to leave their carry-on luggage behind at the gate and spent several hours waiting on the tarmac before the group they were traveling with was able to arrange a shuttle to Miami and booked them on a new flight to Phoenix from there the next day.

The loud noises she heard have never been explained, although they were told by airport staff while on the tarmac that a suspicious bag was being investigated.

Cartee says her whole perspective on security has changed and from now on she'll always scan the room for the nearest exit.

"You don’t know where to go, whether you should hide or run. I feel for those people that lost their lives. I wasn't in their shoes, but emotionally I was,” she said, “You see these things on TV and it doesn’t seem real but they can happen to you anywhere. It was real and it was scary.”