Angel Colon, who was shot during Sunday's assault at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, on Tuesday described the terrifying events after Omar Mateen opened fire on the crowd.
"We were just having a great time, all having a drink together and dancing," Colon said of his night out with his friends Sunday. "It was a great night — no drama, just smiles and laughter."
Just as Colon was saying goodbye to his friends, he heard gunshots ring out in the nightclub. "It just keeps going," Colon said at news conference at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Mateen — reportedly a frequent patron of Pulse nightclub himself — entered the club around 2 a.m. and opened fire on the crowd with a handgun and AR-15-style assault rifle, killing 49 and injuring 53.
Colon and his friends grabbed one another's hands and ran, he said, but Colon was shot in the leg three times and collapsed.
"I tried to get back up but everyone started running everywhere, I got trampled over and shattered the bones in my left leg as people ran over me," Colon said from a wheelchair.
"All I could hear was the shotgun over and over and people yelling for help."
As Colon lay on the ground, Mateen left the room and began shooting in other areas of the club, Colon said. He thought Mateen wasn't going to come back and that he was safe.
"But then unfortunately he comes back and starts shooting everyone on the ground, making sure they're dead," Colon said. Mateen then shot the woman lying next to Colon.
"I thought, That's it, I'm dead," he said. Mateen aimed for Colon's head but shot his hand and his hip. Colon said he remained still and played dead until Mateen turned his attention elsewhere.
Colon repeatedly thanked the hospital staff around him, telling them he loved them and "wouldn't be here without them."
After Mateen was shot and killed by a SWAT team, a cop saw that Colon was alive and said the only way he could get him out of the club is by dragging him by his arms.
"I am so grateful for him, but the floor is covered in glass," Colon said. "I don't feel pain, but there's blood all over me, from myself, from other people."
Other victims flooded into the nearby hospital to have their gun wounds treated, quickly overwhelming the hospital staff.
"Patients were lining up in the hallways," Kathryn Bondani, a doctor who was on duty Sunday night, said. "They weren't being dropped off by paramedics, they were being dropped off by the truckload."
The hospital staff called in surgeons and doctors to match the demand, opening up every operating room in the hospital within 40 minutes of the first arrival of patients. It eventually reached capacity.
"Disasters are something that all hospitals plan for," another hospital staffer, Dr. Mukherjee, said. "But you can never prepare adequately for something like this."
Colon said he wanted the world to know how much the Orlando LGBT community has supported him and other victims and their families during this time. "We are getting through this together," he said. "We really have each other's backs."
Colon, asked by reporters, said that knowing someone like Mateen frequented Pulse nightclub was frightening. "It scares me a lot," he said, describing Mateen as heartless and ruthless.
Colon said he believed Mateen enjoyed the massacre and said he was told by other victims in the club that night that Mateen was laughing as he was shooting.
Everyone has the right to defend themselves with guns, Colon added, but people should have a real reason to buy a gun. "If it's that easy to bring guns like that inside a public place, there's something wrong," he said.
Toward the end of the conference Colon said, thanks to the hospital staff, he's feeling "OK."
"If it wasn't for them I would't have a straight mind," Colon said. "They put a smile on my face, they make me laugh."
"I still can't walk, but as long as I have a smile on my face, I'll be OK."
Ema O'Connor is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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