A good friend from Houston who just moved back from Seattle, and who recently had a piece on Las Vegas in Spirit, sends in this harrowing letter from one of her own good friends, Tammy, who was in the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle last week when one person was killed and five others wounded. Tammy was almost among the victims. Not from Dallas per se but the first-person account is so vivid it’s worth sharing.
…I was sitting at my desk Friday afternoon and sent my last email to a colleague at 3:52. I was getting ready to leave when I heard two gunshots. It did not register at first what it was. I considered going to make sure everything was okay when I heard two more shots and then the screaming began.
I had no idea how many gunmen were in the building or how fast they were moving. I got under my desk and tried to figure out what to do. I heard more and more shots and blood curdling screams. The gunman was shooting, reloading, and shooting more. After he shot and killed my wonderful friend and mentor, Pam, he shot Layla, our 23 year old office manager, Dayna, a pregnant woman who was wounded in the arm while protecting her baby, Carol, and Cheryl. Molly, whose desk is in the same hallway narrowly escaped by hiding under her desk. She made frantic calls to loved ones as the gunman shot her friends.
The gunman then made his way through building looking for people who had not had time to escape. By this point the only two who had not escaped through the back door were Christina and me. Christina was probably wearing her earphones and did not hear the shots. He found her at her desk and shot her twice.
I heard him get Christina and then I heard him come to the back hallway where my office is. I got up, closed and locked my office door as quietly as I could. I could hear him going into offices and leaving – I was the only one in that wing of the building that day other than Rachel, who was able to leave through the back door immediately. I knew I was dead so I just wanted to make the best decisions I could until I faced that certainty.
I was trying to decide what to do when the gunman tried to enter my office. Since the door was locked, he would know I was inside so I made the split second decision to jump from my window. I barely fit out the window, but managed to squeeze out and tried to fall but my hair caught on the handle of the window – it is one of those that rolls out.
My hair was caught and could not get free. I knew that the gunman would gain entry soon and he may come to the window and shoot me in the head. But If I let go off the ledge and fell, I would be scalped – so I decided after wrestling with my hair, trying with all my might to get it off the window handle -I decided to let go of the ledge, grab my hair and pray that my hair tore and that I would not be scalped. Apparently I have super hair because my window broke instead.
I fell from my second story window and hit the dumpster below, I hit the dumpster in a sitting position and scraped along the dumpster until I finally hit the ground. My legs are badly bruised and cut and I have bruises and cuts on my right arm from struggling while hanging against the brick building. My muscles are sore. I have a few scrapes on the left side of my face from hanging and pressing against the building. All I could think was, I want to survive for my kids. I usually bring Max, my seven month old, into work on Fridays. He was not there that day.
Once I hit the ground I ran and banged on the booth of a parking attendant. He would not open so I ran into the parking garage hoping to find refuge, but I knew that people may need help so I ran back up the street to assist. Christina had somehow made it outside and was lying in a pool of blood outside the office. I helped as best I could by applying pressure to her gunshot wounds and just talking to her.
I am finding it hard to continue with this email so I will briefly say that we were all held by the FBI for hours in a commandeered Starbucks and then at the police station. When they found that I was injured the police brought me to Harborview where I was able to see Carol in the ER – she was shot, but doing well. Dayna is also doing well – Pam is dead and my other three friends are in very serious condition. When I was hanging from my window I heard gunshots. I can only surmise that those were meant for me.
….I was lucky – extremely lucky. My office has a window…many do not. A police officer asked if I had ever done sky diving. I had to laugh. He said it was apparent I was unafraid of heights. I said, I AM afraid of heights, but I’m more afraid of crazy gunmen. I wish I could have saved everyone. I wish I could have made it not happen. There were only a handful of us in that building and six of us were shot. The few that were not shot barely escaped with their lives and there is nothing that can stop the nightmare from replaying at this point. I hope all of you understand and I hope to be able to talk normally soon and be back to the person I was before this.