If you have been tuning into the news following the Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting, you may have heard the amazing story of Broward County Public School teacher, Annika Dean, who was heroically shielded by stranger, Tony Bartosiewicz.
Annika, a K-5 Art Teacher at Indian Trace Elementary, has been a teacher for five years, two of which were in Florida.
Prior to the Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting occurrence, Annika was visiting a friend in Atlanta. She was supposed to return on Sunday, but came back earlier on Friday to avoid a weather report showing snow.
Flying into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Annika never would have expected she would need to utilize the active shooter training techniques she learned while being a teacher in Broward County.
Last year, Annika participated in the Broward County Active Killer Program, a training program that prepares teachers and staff to respond to, and plan for, active threats on campus. Guardian Defense played an essential role in working with county law enforcement officers to not only create a program for the schools, but to also guide the instructors in creating the curriculum and program format.
We, are grateful that she was able to survive such a tragedy that Tony Bartosiewicz showed such a heroic act of kindness.
Guardian Defense got in touch with Annika to grasp an understanding of her feelings prior to, during, and after the Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting- and hopefully learn how active shooter training programs can be useful in such catastrophic situations.
Interview with Annika Dean, Eye-Witness of Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting
- Just before the shooting, what were you doing? Did you ever notice the shooter prior to the incident? If so, what was it about him that stood out to you?
“I was in baggage claim 3 waiting for my luggage. No, I only looked and noticed the gunman after I heard gunshots and looked to see where they were coming from. I saw him walking toward us and firing. I couldn’t escape, I would have been right in his path.”
- When the gunman started firing his weapon within the terminal, what were your immediate thoughts and feelings?
“Where do I need to go to find the best place to hide or be covered since escape was not an option. Immediately began to fervently pray he would pass me by. I thought about my children and couldn’t believe it was really happening. But felt some sense of calm- not complete panic because of the training I had.”
- During the shooting, what did you observe about the shooter (his movements, facial expressions, etc.)?
“Just that he wasn’t yelling. He was quiet. He was just walking with his arm out and shooting randomly. I was 30-40 feet away when he first started firing. I didn’t get a close look at his face, just his body. After I tried to take cover, I refused to look. I knew he was close to me because of the loud gunfire in my area. I was told later by a witness he was next to us at one point.”
- During this overwhelming stressful situation, did you feel any physiological effects to your body or mental state (tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, submissiveness, freezing, fight or flight, etc.)? If so, please explain in detail what that experience was like for you.
“No, I was definitely scared and felt vulnerable as he was walking around and shooting in my area. But I was praying. I personally have a lot of belief that the afterlife is a great place. I wasn’t afraid of the afterlife. My only concern was for my children growing up without a mother or a seriously disabled one. I prayed I would be safe. Then, Tony Bartosiewicz shielded me. He said, “I will protect you” and the terror somewhat subsided and I was comforted that a stranger would do such a thing. I felt he was my guardian angel.”
- Since active shooter incidents are more prevalent these days, have you ever thought how you might respond if you were caught in the situation you were in? If so, what mental preparations have you taken to respond to such incidents?
“Yes, I wondered if I would be brave. If I would think rationally and be able to protect my school students if it were a school shooting. The active shooter training helped me have more confidence that I would know how to respond and not panic.”
- After experiencing this tragedy and horrific crisis what did you learn from this event and what precautions will you apply to your everyday life?
“To always be aware of my surroundings. To pay attention. And, to think about escape routes in advance or places to be safe. That my prayers were answered. That there are selfless heroes out there.”
- Have you ever participated in active shooter training before? If so, when and where?
“Twice- Royal Palm Elementary a few months ago and Broward Community Charter over a year ago.”
- It appears that lone wolf assailants and terrorists have recently chosen the “active shooter” event as their preferred attack of choice in this country. Do you feel that citizens should seek out or be provided with active shooter training so they know how to respond to this crisis by themselves or with their families?
“Yes! 100% yes.”
Following our interview, Annika’s school implemented an active threat training program for staff.
Undoubtedly, such a first-hand account can be tough for anyone present during the Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting, or similar tragedy, to attend. Her courage to return to school and support such training is admirable at the least.
To the Annika’s and Tony’s out there in the world, keep inspiring others to rise up against evil and adversity that lurk amongst us.
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