Patience Carter, who was shot in the Orlando attack, said that gunman Omar Mateen told her and other victims that he did not "have a problem with black people," that he thought they "have suffered enough," and he was "doing this to get America to stop bombing his country."
Carter, 20, was on vacation in Orlando with her best friend's family when she, her friend Tiara Parker, 20, and Parker's cousin, Akyra Murray, 18, decided to go to Pulse nightclub.
"We were having the time of our lives. Akyra was being the life of the party —everyone loved and adored her," Carter said from a wheelchair at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. "It was the most beautiful bonding experience three girls could have."
Minutes after Parker ordered an Uber to take them back to the hotel, Omar Mateen opened fire in the club, killing 49 people and injuring 53.
"We went from having the time of our lives to the worst night of our lives in a matter of minutes," Carter said.
Though she said she didn't immediately register what was happening, Carter dropped to the ground and began crawling toward the door. She and Murray made it outside the nightclub when they realized Parker, Murray's cousin, was missing.
They rushed back inside amid gunfire and found Parker. They took cover in a bathroom with a group of other people.
"It still wasn't real to me yet — I was still Snapchatting after we squeezed into the stall," Carter said.
Soon after they got into the stall Mateen entered the bathroom and began shooting.
At first, Carter said she thought it was a BB gun because she felt small objects hitting her legs. She soon realized it was pieces of the stall door flying toward her.
Carter was shot in both legs, Parker in the side, and Murray in the arm. The people in the stall dropped to the floor, and someone fell on Carter's shot leg. She lay down and looked into the stalls next to her.
"Bodies were piled on top of each other on the toilet seat," she said. "There were handprints on everything, and blood."
She looked next to her and saw Parker sitting with her cousin lifeless in her lap.
"I asked, 'What's wrong with Akyra?'" Carter said. The man next to them took Murray's pulse and said she was still alive.
"I saw her phone so I picked it up ... because I thought I would be able to give it back to her once we got to the hospital," Carter said as she began to cry. Murray died.
"Her mother told me not to blame myself, but it's hard."
After shooting at the stall, Mateen made a 911 call in the bathroom, Carter said. "He said the reason why he was doing this is he wanted America to stop bombing his country." (Mateen was born in the U.S.)
When he got off the phone, he asked the people in the stalls if there were "any black people" in the bathroom. A man next to Carter said there were "six or seven of us." Mateen responded that he "didn't have a problem with black people," Carter said. "He said, 'You guys have suffered enough'" at the hands of white Americans.
Mateen had multiple conversations with the remaining people in the bathroom, Carter said.
People's phones kept buzzing and ringing and people were calling 911 and their families. Mateen told everyone to stop using their phones, Carter said, and told them to give the phones to him whenever he heard one go off.
"One time a phone went off and it was outside the stall," Carter said. She assumed the person whom the phone belonged to was no longer alive, because Mateen kept demanding the phone and nobody was responding. Carter threw her phone out of the stall, though it was not going off, so that he would not shoot them.
Once the police came, gunshots ricocheted around the club, blowing open the bathroom wall and bursting the pipes, Carter said. The bathroom started flooding with water.
"I thought, 'If they don't get to me soon I might drown sitting here in this bloody water,'" Carter said, but she was able to push the dead body off of her leg and the debris off her face.
As she waited for the cops to arrive, Carter said she was ready to die.
"I made peace with God within myself. I said, 'God, if this is how I have to go, please take me, I just don't want any more shots ... I didn't want to feel any more pain."
Eventually the police found them and dragged Carter and Parker into separate ambulances. They are both now in stable condition.
At the press conference, Carter read a poem she wrote about surviving the shooting. Watch her read the full poem below:
The guilt of feeling grateful to be alive is heavy.
Wanting to smile about surviving but not sure if the people around you are ready.
As the world mourns the victims killed and viciously slain,
I feel guilty about screaming about my legs and pain,
Because I could feel nothing like the other 49,
Who weren't so lucky to feel this pain of mine.
I never thought in a million years that this could happen.
I never thought in a million years that my eyes could witness something so tragic.
Looking at the souls leaving the bodies of individuals.
Looking at the killer's machine gun throughout my right peripheral.
Looking at the blood and debris covered on everyone's faces.
Looking at the gunman's feet under the stall as he paces.
The guilt of feeling lucky to be alive is heavy.
It's like the weight of the ocean's walls crushing uncontrolled by levies.
It's like being drug through the grass with a shattered leg and thrown in the back of a Chevy.
It's like being rushed to the hospital and told you're going to make it, when you laid beside individuals whose lives were brutally taken.
The guilt of being alive is heavy.
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at email@example.com.
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