Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Marcus Godden was sipping drinks and mingling with his friends when he saw Omar Mateen standing about 15 feet away by the bar.
Mateen wasn’t drinking or dancing. Quietly, he surveyed the roughly 300 people enjoying themselves during Latin Night last Sunday around 2 a.m. at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando. He stared at them intensely, but didn’t try to make conversation, Godden says.
"He was looking at us like we were nothing, like we were pathetic, like we just mean nothing," he says.
Godden says something didn’t sit right with him, but he continued his fun until he heard the “POW-POW-POW-POW-POW-POW-POW-POW-POW-POW” of bullets barreling through the club, then people screaming, feet running, glass smashing, until he fell to the floor. Covered in other people’s blood, he played dead for five minutes.
"Lord Jesus, I pray to God that this won’t happen to me today," he remembers thinking. To his left and right, he heard people crying, praying for the chance to see another day.
Godden says he heard the shooter leave the room and made a run for the back door, stepping on people before he finally made it to the patio door and used a silver table to jump the fence.
"Once I was over that wall, I ran to the 7-Eleven," he says. "I don’t know whose car I jumped in, but I jumped in somebody’s backseat and said 'Take me home.'"
During this time, Mateen was engaging in a shootout with off-duty Orlando Police officer working as security for Pulse and two other officers. Mateen then reportedly walked back into the club and continued shooting, trapping people inside for hours. Around 5 a.m., officials decided to rescue the hostages by driving an armored vehicle through a wall when explosive devices didn’t work. The hostages and Mateen ran out of the building, and Mateen exchanged gunfire with SWAT officers. One of his bullets hit an OPD officer’s Kevlar helmet. Mateen, who reportedly purchased the guns within the last week, was killed by officers’ bullets.
Officials later reported 49 people, including many of Godden's friends, were dead and 53 were injured. Godden says after calming down at home and watching the news, he realized he recognized Mateen.
"How can you live from this?" Godden says the day after the shooting. "How can you make it from all of this? Where do you turn?"