At first it was hard to differentiate between the gunshots and the screaming, but pretty quickly, it was clear from the shots who were the ones in charge. The view from the floor made little sense. Chaos surrounded me, people on the floor, bleeding, screaming and pleading for their lives. Running over them, running over me and screaming louder are the men.
They’re dresses similarly. Black denim, combat boots and heavy black work jackets stained with dust and powder. The bulkiness of the jackets make the assailants arms sit out wider to the sides rather than hang straight down. Each carried a gym bag across their chests, presumably to be filled with cash. The two men’s faces were covered with cheap bandanas, one green and one dark blue. The type of bandana seen on every cowboy from Billy The Kid to John Wayne. Their eyes disguised by plain black framed sunglasses, indistinct in every way.
Seeing an assault rifle this close in person is far more terrifying than anything like that in a movie. It looks heavy, it’s loud, and clunky. The tallest assailant keeps knocking things over with the point of his gun and he swings it wildly around scanning the room like a windmill not sure of which way to face in a windstorm. As he jumps sporadically to and forth controlling the situation, I had a chance to look around at the others on the floor.
To my immediate right, a young woman, no more than 30, lay there weeping in the fetal position. Behind her, a man lay silently, a pool of blood slowly growing from beneath him. The pool of blood inched closer and closer to the woman in front of him like a slow leak from a broken pipe. It hadn’t occurred to me in this moment that it was the first dead body I’d ever seen.
As I found myself in a state of shock, transfixed by the violence laying siege to my eyes, my attention was ripped back to reality. A woman in a dress was pulled over the counter of the bank. She tumbled to the ground roughly. The assailant grabbed her by the arm and pulled her up, pushing her frantically to the locked door at the end of the kiosks. She was crying, shaking and fumbling a set of keys as he screamed for her to open the door.
I don’t know how much time had passed from the shots to this moment. Minutes. Maybe seconds. Either way, it was impossible to know if this was the beginning of this event or the end. Stuck in a helpless pile on the floor, my fellow bank customers were scattered carelessly. This was the first moment in my life that I’ve felt a total lack of control. It’s a terrible feeling. No help or end to this in sight.
The bank employee, who had just successfully unlocked the backdoor, was tossed backward, crashing awkwardly into a side table before tumbling to the ground. The gunman standing near me, pointed his gun at her face and screamed at her. My ears, still ringing from the earlier gunshots or from shock, returned only muted mumbles from this exchange. It was then that he turned instantly to the bank entrance and opened fire.
The room turned white with gunfire blasts and the walls echoed louder with bangs than any thunderstorm ever could. From my view from the floor, I squeezed my eyes shut, covering my ears and face in a pathetic attempt at safety and for the first time in my life, prayed for it all to end.