Kindness in Chaos

Donna Whitten
Valparaiso, Indiana

My family and I were in the Fort Lauderdale airport at the time of the shooting in January, 2017. A lone shooter killed five and injured others in the baggage area of Terminal 2. Five of my family were in Terminal 1, and one more was in Terminal 2. None of us heard nor saw anything, and only learned of the tragedy on the television around 1:00 p.m. All was quiet, but we were nervous, waiting to see what would happen next.

Around 1:30, the airport announced all services were suspended, and people picked up their phones to make other arrangements. My daughter and I were together, but the others were alone. Around 2:00 p.m. everything changed. Security personnel came running in, ordering everyone to “get down!” The noise was deafening—shouts, screaming, stomping feet, and other loud noises. We did as we were told, and dropped to the floor. A few moments later, we were ordered to get out of the building, and everyone rushed to the doors.

My daughter and I were still together. We waited frantically to find the others in our party and to hear from the family member in Terminal 3. We were not all reunited until eight or nine hours later, but within an hour or so, I knew all were safe.

Kindness in ChaosSirens and emergency vehicles were everywhere, and there were lots of people just standing around. We had with us only whatever we had on our person. Many had nothing—no identification, no phone, nothing. Some had no shoes, as they kicked them off when they ran. Some had minor injuries from the evacuation. Others suffered panic attacks or other health-related issues. Ambulances were treating some on the spot and transporting others.

In all the confusion and terror, I saw many kindnesses. One man gave a woman his socks because she had no shoes. A woman shared a small glass of water with me and others. A security building allowed us to use the restrooms. A young woman shared her phone and limited battery with my son, so he could let us know he was safe.

After about five hours, we were allowed to leave the area, not knowing where we were going. A woman not associated with the evacuation drove her personal vehicle to the chaos and offered rides to tired people making their way to centralized meeting points. Security personnel were patient as they explained over and over to people in which direction they should head.

In the end, we were delayed 2 ½ days, spent about $1,000 on hotels, clothing, toiletries, Uber rides, food, and a rental car to get some of us to the Orlando airport for flights home. But in the end, we were lucky. We were all fine, and grateful for the many kindnesses we witnessed amidst chaos and terror.

Originally published as HeroicStories #882 on Jan 30, 2017

2 thoughts on “Kindness in Chaos”

  1. In a time when some deranged people randomly kill and wound others,having even less regard for how they disrupt the lives of hundreds of people, some keep their sanity and honor their values by being kind and helping their neighbor, with whatever simple things they can do. They will be remembered long after the random shooter has been forgotten.

  2. The kindness and generosity of people never fails to make me smile. Just when the only thing that seems to be an option is giving up, people show their goodness and generosity and make life worth living again.


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