AUBURN, Ala. — “I thought I was going to die for sure.” That’s what was going through Calen Santos’ mind as he was huddled under a chair with his bookbag over his head the Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday.
Santos was sitting at his gate at the airport and says there was a woman next to him who said something under her breath. He was unable to make out what she said. Santos asked her what she said, and she told him one of her friends said there was a shooter at the airport and that he looked behind him and saw it on CNN.
Santos says everything in the area around him was completely calm and thought the shooter was in a different spot.
He called his mother and let her know of the situation, and told her that there was a shooter at the airport, but he was fine. She told him to go ahead and start to board the plane. Santos said that he thought he saw that the shooter was captured on social media, and he called his mother to relay that message.
As soon as he said that, he heard a scream and saw the shooter.
“I’m just very blessed and very thankful to still be here, and I’ll definitely cherish that.”
“I immediately ducked to the ground, and I grabbed my book bag, and I covered my head with it, and I heard a really loud bang of the gun,” Santos says. “I’m laying there on the phone with my mom saying I love you so much. I love you. I love you. The shooter, he’s here and she is just screaming.”
He says that while he was on the ground, a man came by, grabbing his wife before also helping Santos. While the man was helping Santos, the rush of people forced them together and broke the man’s ribs. Once Santos was up, he started to run with the couple, but says something told him to grab his bag, which he did.
Santos says the man who saved him, Mike DiSanti, was like a guardian angel and he has three people to thank for his survival: God, Mike and his wife Mary DiSanti.
They began heading for the jetway, and from there they went down the stairs onto the tarmac. While they were on the tarmac, Santos says there was a great deal of screaming and a wave of people began to run towards him, so they took off.
The journey eventually took them to a construction office building where they and others were asked to wait. Authorities were asking for the information of all those present, and Santos says he was allowed to leave once the authorities asked if anyone had a driver’s license on them, they could come to a separate line.
Santos says once they were safe, he and Mary embraced for a hug because he says she wasn’t sure if she would see her kids again, and he wasn’t sure if he would see his mother again.
Santos says he eventually took an Uber to a nearby mall where he was able to charge his phone and have his dad pick him up.
Santos adds during the process, there was a sense that everyone was one family trying to make it out together. He added that he took away a great lesson from the event.
“The main thing is to cherish life,” Santos says. “It can be taken from you in two seconds, in a glimpse. I’m definitely more appreciative of how blessed I am. There’s five people who somebody loved and they didn’t make it out of that airport. I’m just very blessed and very thankful to still be here, and I’ll definitely cherish that.”
When asked if he plans to keep in contact with the couple who helped him, he said they told him that he always has a place to stay when he’s in Chicago and they have to meet for dinner when they are in each other’s area.