BUFFALO, N.Y. - Sandy Schoellkopf, her husband, and her kids stood on the Ft. Lauderdale tarmac for at least seven hours on Friday.
Two WNYers stranded at Ft. Lauderdale Airport
Two WNY Residents Recount Chaos At Airport
WGRZ 11:33 PM. EST January 06, 2017
The Williamsville family sent us Channel 2 iPhone video of the crowd and chaos outside.
Sandy says people were running out of the concourse typically attached to a plane, but in this case, it led them outside.
"And so we all went down the stairwell, but it was chaotic. People were pushing, and now we're standing on the tarmac and we've been out here now for a long time," she said Friday afternoon.
"People abandoned purses and personal items and just ran out of the terminal."
Sandy was inside Terminal F using the bathroom when people started screaming and running.
She was separated from her family shortly, until her son called and told her to make a run for it before the airport doors were sealed.
They reunited, and then they waited.
"Everyone has been very nice, trying to calm everyone down, bringing bottles of water off of the planes and snacks," Sandy said.
Only hundreds of feet away, Jesse Ladoue, of Pendleton, was not allowed off her Southwest plane.
Jesse learned about the shooting while in the air through in-flight TV, but beyond what was on the news, she said even the pilots had few updates for the passengers.
"They know as much as we know; they're watching it on their phones, their electronic devices, so we're all kind of in the same boat," she said in a Skype interview from her seat
"I think we're all really really grateful that we're on the plane and not in the terminal," she said.
Only about seven hours later, after 8:00 p.m. Friday night, were Jesse and her boyfriend able to get off the plane.
As for Sandy, she and her family also finally made it in the terminal after about seven hours, and many who were stranded on the tarmac will be bussed to Port Everglades.
She said no one was able to collect their abandoned belongings, however. Airport staff told them a private security firm would go through the luggage, first. Sandy isn't sure how her family will eventually go home because all of her husband's identification was left behind.
Sandy says the most nerve wracking thing was what she perceived as a lack of police presence out on the tarmac.