On Friday, January 6th, 2017, the vacationers at Fort Lauderdale Airport experienced a lot more than the warm temperatures and sunny sky. One man, Esteban Santiago (26), picked up his luggage from the baggage claim, went to the bathroom, loaded a gun and managed to kill 5 people and hospitalize 8 others.
Santiago had recently returned from a tour in Iraq, and had been noted by his family a “changed man.” According to his family, he often discussed the destruction he had witnessed and started hearing voices and seeing visions. At one point in time, Santiago went to authorities for help, but was released after being hospitalized for only four days. After this he became more distant from his family and continued to complain of hearing voices and the visions.
The airport shooting wasn’t Santiago’s first act of felony, he has a previous record of crime and the assault of his girlfriend after an argument. After the shooting, Santiago went into custody without a fight and told officials that an intelligence agency was telling him to watch ISIS videos. The Fort Lauderdale Shooting has not yet been determined as an act of terrorism, although it is clear that Santiago is mentally unstable and his health should be questioned.
Four of the five victims have been identified so far. The victims are: Shirley Timmons, Michael Oehme, Terry Andres, Olga Woltering, with last victim not being publicly identified. Along with the five people that were killed, there are also eight other people wounded.
Not only the people who were directly affected by the shooting are scared. Students and teachers at Portage Northern spoke strongly about the shooting as well. Biology teacher Jessica Clark described the incident as “tragic” and said that “Hurting people hurt. And right now there is so much hurt in this world that it seems that these things are becoming more prominent.” Students around the school also feel passionately about the shooting. Sophomore Alyssa Riker states, “It’s kind of freaky, because for spring break, that is where I’m flying in, so I am a little freaked out.” Another student, Gwen Park (10), says about Santiago’s hospitalization prior to the shooting: “Although the hospital can’t be blamed for not “fixing” Santiago’s mindset before releasing him, while aware of his condition and potential danger to the public, I kind of feel like the hospital should have been more responsible to him as a patient; maybe if our society paid more attention to the mental health of veterans and disturbed individuals, acts of terrorism wouldn’t happen as frequently, people could be more easily reasoned with, and news of hate-crimes wouldn’t show up on social media so often. I feel like from this incident, the deaths at Fort Lauderdale will only be recognized as a result of terrorism, fueling Islamophobia and hate against certain religious, cultural groups; and it’s totally unfair, especially when it sounds like Fort Lauderdale could have been preventers if Santiago had been properly helped.” There are clearly mixed opinions on the cause of the shooting, but no one can deny that it was a truly tragic event.
After the shooting occurred, many airports around the country sprung into action. Officers patrolling the airports were given loaded guns along with there being more random bag checks. Overall, security was completely increased, upping the awareness of the people and security. The shooting remains clear in the minds of those who witnessed is and they are all waiting for justice to be served.