A man shot seven times dragged himself over a fence after escaping from Club Q. His friend played dead as blood flowed from shrapnel lodged in his arm. Another man tried to get up to help others without realizing he’d taken a bullet through the leg. The brother of two shooting victims searched for his siblings in nearby hospitals.
These are just a few of the stories from those injured in the LGBTQ dance club in Colorado Springs where a shooter killed at least five people and wounded 19 others on Saturday night.
The survivors, in sharing the harrowing details of the attack, expressed gratitude for escaping with their lives but also anger that the LGBTQ community had been targeted.
Barrett Hudson, 31, took seven bullets in the back before escaping from Club Q through the rear exit. He climbed on an outdoor table and dragged himself over a fence to make his way to a group of people for help.
“I should not be here. I 100% should not be alive,” Hudson said Tuesday on a video call from his hospital bed. “But, somehow through the grace of God, I’m here.”
While waiting for an ambulance in Colorado Springs' crisp night air, Hudson — fearing he wouldn't make it — called his father.
“I told him I loved him. I told him that I’d been shot,” he said, his voice breaking as he began to cry. “I wanted for my peace of mind, just to talk to him one last time.”
Before the shooting, it was a normal Saturday night for Hudson and his friend, Isaiah Aponte, who went to the club together. But less than an hour after they arrived, Hudson said he heard something like the popping of balloons mixed in with the music's thrumming bass.
That was when Hudson noticed that a door to the club had shut and saw someone pointing an AR-15-style gun at a man with his hands up. The gunman “just massacred him in front of me,” Hudson said, and everyone started running. As Hudson fled, the gunman hit him with seven bullets in the back.
Miraculously, all of the bullets missed his vital organs and he will be able to walk, Hudson's doctors told him. But the road to recovery will be long, and Hudson said he was in terrible pain. As he spoke, he occasionally stood to stretch to alleviate the throbbing or would close his eyes, tilt his head back and pause.
“I’m really glad to be alive," he said. "I’m very fortunate.”
Aponte, 24, saw Hudson get shot as he ran, he said Tuesday in an interview from a hospital in Aurora, Colorado. “I thought he was a goner, because he got shot up,” he added.
An Air Force veteran, Aponte said he had been separated from Hudson in the chaos. He said he flipped a table and laid down on the ground for cover, using an arm to shield his vital organs.
That's when the gunman turned to “shoot directly towards all the people that were on the dance floor and were running,” Aponte said. “He ended up shooting through the table and I ended up getting a bunch of shrapnel stuck in my right forearm.”
The shrapnel is "going to be stuck in my arm for the rest of my life now,” he said.
As the blood flowed from his wounds, Aponte said he pretended to be dead as he watched Richard Fierro, an Army veteran, and others go after the gunman, eventually wrestling him to the ground and beating him with his own pistol.
James and Charlene Slaugh
James Slaugh, 33, called the police while he, his sister Charlene Slaugh, his boyfriend and another friend were hiding after all four had been shot: James in his arm, Charlene in the abdomen, James' boyfriend in the leg and the friend in the hip.
They’d gone to Club Q, where James Slaugh met his boyfriend eight months prior, to cheer up his sister after a breakup — she remains in critical but stable condition, he said from his hospital bed on Tuesday.
James Slaugh said uninjured customers went around and handed out rags to the wounded after the shooting.
"I got a hug from one and he's like, 'You were shot in the arm. But don't worry, you're going to be safe, you're alive, you're good,' and he just gave me this kiss on the forehead. And that brought me to tears," he said.
In the chaos of the aftermath, James Slaugh said he was separated from his sister and authorities didn't hear as he yelled, "That's my sister! That's my sister," as she was carted away. He was instead driven to a different hospital in a police car.
Mark Slaugh, James' brother, woke up before dawn on Sunday to texts in the family group chat that his siblings had been shot. He quickly drove to Colorado Springs from his home in Denver. He found his brother at one hospital, but his sister was listed under Jane Doe at another.
Mark Slaugh said it felt like “your stomach had dropped to the pit of your soul.”
“My experience is just: ‘No, please be OK. I hope they’re fine. I hope they’re not dead. I hope they can bounce back from this. I hope they can still meet their goals and objectives in life,’” he said. “It’s very, very scary to think that someone has decided to take everything, take their future from them."
He said they were able to eventually identify Charlene by a tattoo, but he wasn't able to see her for hours because security had shut down her floor.
At the hospital, Charlene Slaugh had a collapsed lung inflated and went through an eight-hour emergency surgery in which "they had to put her guts back together. They removed pieces of her colon, her intestines, her inner workings," said Mark Slaugh, who started a GoFundMe to help his siblings cover medical costs.
The bullet that struck James Slaugh shattered the bone in his arm, requiring a steel rod to be surgically added from below his shoulder to above his elbow, he said in an interview after finishing his first round of physical therapy. There will be several more months of therapy ahead to fully recover the movement of his arm and hand, he said.
But it has not gotten James Slaugh down, despite this fulfilling his fear that such a shooting might occur "because the LGBTQ+ community is a target."
"I am not going to back away," he said, noting the huge number of compassionate messages he's received. "We are all here for each other. And the world is starting to show that. So no matter how many bullets someone sprays, there's going to be a lot more love — and that's a lot stronger than any bullet."
Jerecho Loveall, 30, said he was still trying to deal with his emotions after surviving the event. He recalled how he'd only just sat down to take a break from dancing when suddenly “all you hear is gunshots, rapid-fire shots." Then “glass started to fly and I hit the ground.”
“I’m pretty sure I’m still in shock and I am not able to process everything that has happened just yet,” he said.
While Loveall could not fully see the shooter, he saw the gunman wearing “a brown protective vest and then the barrel of the gun just flashing rapid-fire flashes.”
When “the shots went silent,” Loveall said he tried to get up to make sure his friends and others he knew at the club were all right. That’s when he realized he had been shot.
“I was worried about the people that I was there with and the people that I’ve spent my time with growing up there,” said Loveall, who has been going to the club for more than a decade.
Club Q, many of the victims said, was a safe haven — one of the few that Colorado Springs had to offer to members of the LGBTQ community.
This attack has now threatened an essential oasis, Loveall said, and it's only because this gunman chose to attack people he didn't know or understand.
"You don’t need to take lives or cause pain and suffering to people that you don’t know, you don’t understand," he said. "It’s unnecessary violence, and we’re not going to get anywhere by spreading hate."
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com