Potomac High School senior Christian Esquilin was waiting for a shuttle at the Fort Lauderdale Airport Jan. 6 to take himself and his family to the rental car desk when his father Jose received a picture text from a friend of a Fox News headline about a shooting inside one of the terminals.
A lone gunman had removed a gun from his baggage and started randomly firing in the baggage claim area inside the second terminal. The incident left five people dead.
Sensing no shuttle was coming given the uncertainty of the situation, Christian and his family walked to the first terminal where the car rental desks were located.
The Esquilins received no indication they were in harm’s way. But within a minute after going inside the second terminal, they saw a “SWAT officer rushing down the escalator and yelling at folks to clear the way.” Then a drove of people ran toward the exit in response to a rumor about a possible second gunman.
Jose thought first to hide his family inside the luggage conveyer belts, but he said they were “sealed off.”
With orders to clear the building, the Esquilins ran toward a nearby parking garage exit ramp to use the cement as a barricade.
“I started to get a little anxious,” Christian said. “I did not see the shooter. I can’t explain it. I was not scared for my life, but I was trying to get out of there and get to safety.”
As the family ran toward the ramp, they spotted a taxi and flagged down the driver. The taxi driver picked them up and drove them to another car rental place 10 minutes away since traffic was still moving out of the airport at that time.
“We were lucky,” Christian said.
The day’s events left Christian in a somber mood. He was in south Florida to attend a player assessment session the following day designed to select players for the Puerto Rico National Lacrosse Team.