FORT LAUDERDALE — Less than 24 hours after Terminal 2 in the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was turned into a bloody shooting gallery, things started getting back to normal Saturday.
The hundreds of police cruisers and SWAT vans that enveloped every corner of this airport in the hours after the shooting were mostly gone by 5 a.m., when the airport reopened. The empty terminals and sidewalks from the night before were filled with stranded passengers fighting to find new connections.
The baggage area on the ground floor of Terminal 2, though, remained barricaded by a swarm of law enforcement officials still processing the crime scene of the shooting the killed five people and injured six.
Teresa Gresho, 50, sat in Terminal 1 as her husband tried to rebook flights back to their home in Golden, Colo., and said many passengers were frustrated and lashing out at airport employees. Gresho, surrounded by her bags, her daughter and her impatient grandson, said those people needed to take more time understanding what had just happened.
“This one airline employee finally said, ‘Do you realize people died yesterday?’” Gresho said. “I don’t want to sit here either, but I’m alive.”
Mark Gale, director of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, said some cargo flights resumed around midnight and passenger operations started at 5 a.m. Delta flights were mostly shut down, and the airport was running at about 85% with the hopes of reopening Terminal 2 by Saturday evening, he said.
One of the biggest complications has been returning lost items to the passengers evacuated in such a hurry Friday, leaving behind luggage, cell phones, backpacks and all kinds of personal items. In all, Gale said they had 20,000 items and were working to reunite people with their belongings.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to help people who lost IDs in the mad dash to evacuate the airport. And Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., said her office was working with the State Department to connect people with their consulates if they lost passports.
About 10,000 passengers spent the night in Port Everglades and said the quarters were cramped but reasonable. “I’ve slept in worse,” said Alfonso Hall, 87, a retired Air Force master sergeant and veteran of wars in Vietnam and Korea.
Hall was about to board his flight home with his wife to San Antonio after a vacation in the Bahamas when the shooting broke out Friday. They spent more than five hours on the airport tarmac, but said airport officials treated them as well as could be expected, constantly handing out water and snacks.
He and his wife found a bench to sleep on overnight at Port Everglades and had no idea when they would be able to rebook a flight back home. But Hall, still carrying the airplane pillow and blanket he was given at Port Everglades, said most people realized they were lucky to be there.
“Surprisingly, people were calm,” he said. “Everyone seemed to be in a good mood when you consider the circumstances.”
Andre Pauw, who jumped over the counter of an airport restaurant Friday when he heard someone screaming about a shooter and spent four hours on the tarmac with other passengers, said he was shocked when he finally got on a bus and made it to Port Everglades that night.
“They had pasta, salad, some fruit,” said Pauw, 50, who said he couldn’t sleep overnight because of the adrenaline but found a bench to sit on. “I can’t believe they got that many people out of here and accommodated.”