Fort Lauderdale shooting witness played dead near woman shot in head

A witness to the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, airport shooting said she feels "a mixed bag of grief and gratefulness" days after playing dead next to a woman shot in the head.

Ruth Bellman estimated she was 25 to 30 yards from the shooter in Friday's attack when she heard shots and turned to see him.

"At first it took me a split second to believe it was real," Bellman said. "But I saw him fire and then I hit the ground."

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Bellman, who lives Dublin, Virginia, said she had received "active shooter" training at the library system where she works. She is scheduled to take the class again next week after returning from a Caribbean cruise, she said.

With nowhere to run, she realized from her training the best option was to lie still.

At her feet, a woman had been shot in the head, she said.

What stands out most? "How surreal it all is," Bellman wrote by email to The Palm Beach Post Sunday evening. "Even though I am on a cruise I am still able to see the news … and seeing the names and faces of the victims makes it so much more real for me. The fact that the lady next to me was shot in the head and died breaks (my heart) for her precious husband and family."

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She heard someone shout the shooter had left the building, but before she could move came shouts he had returned, she said. The next thing she remembers is a shout of "we got him" as the suspect was taken into custody.

Esteban Santiago, 26, has been accused in the attack.

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For long and chaotic minutes, she could not find her daughter, Rachel Carroll. She was on the other side of the baggage claim area and had run to the next terminal.

"I was frantic," Bellman said.

At last they reunited.

"I am so grateful to be uninjured and alive," Bellman said. "It's a mixed bag of grief and gratefulness. In retrospect I have realized how God orchestrated every moment for my daughter and me … that he heard my prayers and I am so humbly grateful for his mercy and am horribly grieved by those who lost their lives."

Staff writer Olivia Hitchcock contributed to this report.

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