Margeson: When I first arrived at the hospital, I parked in the loading-dock area of the north tower and was immediately met by two Orlando police officers armed with M16 rifles. At that very moment, the gravity of the situation hit me — the hospital was on a “heavily armed police lockdown.” After checking in at the command post, I set out to speak with some of the front-line security officers who described in great detail the initial chaotic scene of victims and their supporters arriving at the emergency department. Most of the victims were being delivered in pickup trucks and passenger cars, not ambulances. Dozens of people arrived on foot and many were absolutely hysterical with fear and panic. A few of the security officers kept using the word “surreal” to describe the events they had witnessed. I’m so proud of the brave actions taken by our security officers to help the arriving victims, and I’m also very grateful for the support of Orlando’s police department. Without them, enforcing a lockdown under these conditions may have been impossible. One officer said it was like a bad dream and he couldn’t wake up. In the following hours, I personally witnessed many very sad and troubling events, but the most difficult was seeing the procession of vehicles from the medical examiner’s office leaving our ambulance bay with 9 deceased victims — and knowing that each one of them was young enough to be my own child.
Lang: As I made my way to the emergency department, I could see we were on total lockdown. Hordes of heavily armed law enforcement, security, clinical and paramedic staffs were working franticly to attend to everyone. Once I made it to the ambulance bay, I found the night-shift security supervisor, who advised me on the location of the incident, but had little additional information. I walked up to a very tall, uniformed officer from the city of Orlando and asked who was in command here, and he responded that he did not know. I told him who I was, that I needed information, and that as far as I was concerned, he was in charge and would be our liaison. I asked for a run down, any information. I was told there may be multiple suspects and possibly IEDs. I also was told there were bodies everywhere in and near the Pulse nightclub just a few blocks away. There was no information as to the location of the suspects or whether they were mobile and out of the area. Attempting to make telephone contact for more support, I re-entered the emergency department and observed law enforcement with a patient they appeared to be guarding. I asked if that was a shooting suspect and was told possibly.
At this point, I observed law enforcement running toward the other side of the department and people yelling that shots had been fired. I yelled for everyone to get down and ran with the officers to the east-side employee exit by the department staff offices. I contacted approximately 15 law enforcement officers who advised that they needed to search the hospital. Soon a “code silver” active-shooter announcement was made on the overhead communications system.
I went with a group of law enforcement officers who had guns drawn and were clearing areas in response to the active-shooter call. Several other groups — escorted by team members — also were out searching. As I walked with my law enforcement group, kind of in the middle, we turned the corner toward the nurse administration office and I became fully aware that I was not a cop anymore and had no gun. That was one of the worst feelings I have ever had. With empty hands, I continued to assist with an area check. Several areas were checked but before we were done, a communication was prematurely issued that the active shooter call was being cleared. This process has been corrected.
I informed several team members who were walking the hall to find a place to hide because we were still in active-shooter mode. My group was clearing the cafeteria when I noticed six corrections officers at the elevators. I informed them of the situation and they assisted. I turned to go back down the hall when I heard yelling from the stairwell. I opened the door and saw Carlos Carrasco, our hospital COO, in the stairwell with several police officers also searching. I was briefed that a possible suspect was taken to one of the floors and was asked to escort the officers to the patient room so Carlos could assist back at the ED. One of the officers stated they had found and were following a blood trail. I escorted the group to the sixth floor and toward a specific room number. I was thinking, Is this the guarded patient from the ED who somehow got away? Are multiple shooters running around? And what did he mean about a blood trail? I knew one thing for sure: I missed my big, 45-caliber duty Glock I was given when I retired from the Sheriff’s Office.
As we exited the elevator on the sixth floor, I observed several clinical staff hunkered down in an office. I told them to stay in the room and that we are still in active-shooter mode. We proceeded to the target room and law enforcement made entry. I heard yelling, and the person of interest was found hiding inside the bathroom. We located a wheel chair and I escorted the person of interest to the emergency department. While at the ED, I learned the command post had been activated and headed over because security has a position at the command table. When I got there, I was met by Mark Jones, ORMC’s president. We were the only two people in the room at first. Neither one of us wanted to be there; we wanted to be out in the field. Numerous times Carlos would run into the command post, give an update, say “I got to get back” and run out.
That early morning, everyone was doing their jobs to the best of their ability. This was a catastrophic incident that had the right people in the right place at the right time from minute 1 to months later. Security has maintained its new heightened level still to this day. We never went back to pre-Pulse.