FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — A South Florida teacher said a complete stranger shielded her from gunfire during Friday’s deadly shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Elementary school art teacher Annika Dean told WSVN she was waiting for her luggage when she heard gunfire.
“I heard gunshots. I recognized it immediately as gunshots,” Dean said.
Chaos erupted around Dean, who had just returned from a trip to Atlanta.
“I looked for a place to hide. Unfortunately, there really wasn’t a place to hide,” Dean said.
Dean then spotted the suspected shooter, identified as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago, walking in her direction, shooting people as he made his way towards her.
The Broward County schoolteacher saw a “SmartCart” and ran toward it.
“I went on the other side of that, and I lay down,” Dean said.
Lying on the floor, however, obstructed her view of the gunman, so she had no idea where he was, she told WSVN.
“When I was lying down, I wasn’t looking anymore. I was just looking at the carpet, and I was just praying to God that my children would have a mother,” Dean told WSVN.
Dean was referring to her two sons, ages 13 and 11. As the sound of gunfire continued, Dean realized she might not make it out alive.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to live or die,” Dean said.
But then, a Good Samaritan approached her.
“A man basically climbed on top of me and told me, ‘I will protect you.’ He brought me comfort during the most terrifying experience in my life,” Dean said.
Dean remained quiet, along with her protector, WSVN reports.
The gunman fired over them, but neither was hit.
Dean later learned the good Samaritan was 70-year-old Anthony Bartosiewicz, a retired electrician from Rochester, New York.
The grateful mother said the white-haired stranger’s actions strengthened her faith in people.
“He’s just a hero. He just wanted to protect me,” Dean said.
As a teacher, Dean had gone through two active shooter trainings in the past, and that’s why, when she heard the sound of gunfire, she recognized what it was it right away. She has another training scheduled in the next few days.
Bartosiewicz, meanwhile, is on a cruise, so Dean has been unable to speak with him after the shooting, according to WSVN.