As thousands gathered in droves Thursday night in San Bernardino to remember the 14 people massacred at a government holiday party, one eye witness to the mass shooting just 24 hours earlier took a deep breath in a more intimate setting.
Surrounding by a half-dozen friends and acquaintances, the woman — who agreed to discuss what she say with BuzzFeed News on condition that her name not be used for fear it might affect her standing at work — described the terror that struck as two gun-wielding assailants entered the Inland Regional Center.
“I didn’t see the rifles at first,” she told BuzzFeed News.
The woman, who works at the center, had just looked outside a window when her eyes were drawn to a pair of masked people in black, tight-fitting tactical gear casually walking side by side.
She looked away and continued to work, but she was distracted seconds later by a short burst of noise. When she looked up, she saw two people armed with rifles continue to walk toward the back of a conference room that’s often rented out for events.
A man came out through the back entrance and found himself face-to-face with Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. One of them instantly grabbed their rifle and aimed it at the man.
“That’s when they shot him,” the woman said. “I saw him go down.”
She rushed into a nearby office with a group of coworkers, who barricaded the door with office furniture. The group waited quietly for what seemed like eternity before police officers knocked on the door.
They had just survived the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. since the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
She replays the scene over and over in her head. Always coming back to what flashed through her head as she was huddled in that barricaded room, unaware of what was happening outside.
“I thought I was going to die,” she said. “I thought, ‘OK, this is it. Will I be facing them when they shoot me in the chest, will I have my back turned to them? Or will it be when I’m playing dead on the floor?’”