Video from Pulse survivor shows life inside club before 49 lives lost
Survivor asks News 6 to share his video from June 12
ORLANDO, Fla. – A family. That's the way Pulse nightclub shooting survivor Chriss West described those who regularly partied at the club in Orlando.
The family changed forever the early hours of June 12, with the loss of 49 lives.
[MORE: Complete coverage on Pulse nightclub shooting]
But the evening started out with love, fun and friendship, according to West.
"That night seemed like it was beyond fun for me," said West. "We look good, we feel good."
Videos West took that night show the club was packed.
"The excitement, the adrenaline, the drinking, the good times, the laughter, the joy in people's faces," said West. "It was just so much fun there. I mean, the experience of Pulse was just one you couldn't compare to any club in Orlando. It was a second home to all of us."
But around 1:55 a.m., he said something didn't feel right. West described two men, one he believed was Omar Mateen, as well as another, acting suspiciously.
"My friend came up to me and said, 'Are they looking at our jewelry?' and I said, 'I don't know, but I have a funny feeling about these people.'"
West said his mom picked up the same vibe, and headed to the patio to smoke a cigarette.
"We got to the patio and my best friend told me, 'Chriss, go get my husband,'" said West.
"I looked at her and said, 'But we just left them', and she said, 'Chriss, go get my husband now.'"
He said seconds later is when they heard the gunshots start blasting inside the club.
"That's when I said, 'Everybody get down!' and that's when my best friend's husband screamed, 'Everybody get down!'"said West. "It got silent for about three seconds. All you hear is the tables rumbling and the chairs moving and people scattering all over. And I said, 'Do you taste it?' And he said, "Do you taste it?' and I was like, 'Oh my God, it's getting closer!' The gunpowder, we tasted the gunpowder."
"I knew in that moment when people were coming through the patio door shot already, that he was coming to the patio. I said, 'Oh, my God, Mom, we got to go!' He stopped at the bathroom and shot in the bathroom right before you enter through the patio. When he shot, I was able to turn to the patio with my mom, and my two best friends went in front of me, so when we turned, all we felt was the impact of the lady behind us who got shot because the gentleman came out and started shooting at the patio, at the people who were climbing the fence. Forget a minute to win it, it was like a second to get out."
Around 2:04, West, his mom and friend escaped the patio and that's when his mom pressed record.
The videos show countless moments of panic: screaming, flashing lights, people running, gunshots, scrambling for safety.
Some of the first officers arrive in seconds.
"You can see them escorting us out, jumping out the car, taking out the shotguns, telling us, 'Go over there, go over there,'" said West. "All you can hear the 'kik kik'-- you can hear the gun shots still going off inside Pulse night club. It's intense, it's insane not knowing if you are going to make it, let alone your best friends or your mom. I couldn't trust anyone. Anyone around me and anyone around my friends or my mom."
The videos begin to show other club-goers and first responders helping the wounded out of the club.
They show people walking, looking for help, bloody-- while other people continue to scream, terrified by what they see.
"There was so much going on, people running out with blood, people terrified finding their friends, looking for their loved ones," said West. "Body after body kept coming in front of us deceased, shot. That was intense, it's tough."
"You get to see the people who have gone on to the afterlife, their last moments, the police encounter with how they handled the situation, how surreal how real it was."
These moments, though tough, were some he felt compelled to share.
"I have so many people on my camera on my SnapChat," said West. "Family members need to reach out to me so I can share these videos. If they see their family members or friends or last moments of whatever moments they have, whether it was outside of Pulse, the inside of Pulse, the fun moments. Help someone smile. Talk about the good times, the bad times, the bad times sometimes make the good times better."
Within hours of News 6 posting Chriss' videos' online and on the News 6 Facebook page survivors and family members who lost loved ones began posting how they felt.
Brandon J Wolf Thank you, Chriss West. I just keep scanning your video for me and my boys. Keep hoping to see a snippet of our last moments together.
Kelly Hendrick I liked the videos. Thanks for all of your support and keep up the good work!!
Survivor Mimi Febles spoke to News 6 after watching the video. She and her wife left the nightclub just before the shooting started, her sister-in-law was one of the 59.
"i initially smiled because I was like oh man it was a packed night we had a really good time," she said. " The positive of where I said earlier, to let the families know that they went out with a smile. I know it may not seem it was their time and it was a terrible tragedy but they definitely was smiling and we were all smiling and we were happy and we were people we loved ."
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