Annick Dean was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a lone gunman opened fire in Fort Lauderdale airport last Friday. As soon as bullets started to fly, Dean hit the ground and covered her head. “I knew immediately what was happening. I knew it wasn’t a firecracker. I then looked and saw the shooter who was 30 or 40 feet away and walking toward us. There was no safe place for cover.”
Dean’s training as a school teacher included emergency preparedness, but nothing could prepare her for what happened next. The one thing on her mind? Hoping and praying that her children would see their mother again. “I was praying specifically that my children would still have their mother. I was worried that they might not.”
72-year-old Tony Bartosiewicz was traveling with his wife and mere feet from Dean when the shooting began. Without hesitation, Bartosiewicz dropped to the ground and crawled toward Annick Dean. His purpose was unclear until me managed to whisper four words in Dean’s ear.
“He basically climbed on top of me and whispered, ‘I will protect you.’ I knew he might be a victim, but I also knew I would survive.”
Dean kept her head down while her guardian angel shielded her with his own body. Though many were injured and some lost their lives that day, both Dean and Bartosiewicz escaped unscathed. It was only later that Dean found out the shooter had stood over their bodies while continuing on his shooting spree.
As this story begins to spread, many people are shocked by Bartosiewicz’s herosim, but his family is not. Bartosiewicz is on a cruise at the moment and unavailable for comment, but his daughter summed up her father’s character nicely, “That’s the kind of person he is,” she said. “He would do something like this without thinking.”
The events that unfolded Friday in Fort Lauderdale were tragic in the most extreme sense, but stories like this and the veteran who rescued strangers from the Oregon shooter restore my hope in a brighter future.
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