Ten minutes after a shooter opened fire at the Fort Lauderdale airport, Tony Bartosiewicz called his daughter to let her know that he was safe.
Bartosiewicz had been in the baggage claim area when the shooter began firing on passengers. The retired electrician dove to the floor and miraculously remained unharmed, even as the shooter walked toward him and began to shoot over him. After the ordeal, “he was really shaken up and could barely speak,” said his daughter, Jenny Miller.
Bartosiewicz, who lives in Rochester, NY, told her about the shooting, but he left out an important detail. He did not tell his daughter that he had jumped on top of a woman who was lying on the floor to shield her from the gunman. As bullets whizzed around them, Bartosiewicz quietly told the woman, Broward teacher Annika Dean, that he would protect her.
After what Dean said felt like a minute and a half of shooting, police arrived and detained the shooter. Dean, a 42-year-old mother of two boys, had emerged unscathed.
“The first thing I said to him was I thanked him and told him that it was terrifying and what he did brought me comfort, that it was just so comforting,” Dean said. “I thanked him throughout the day and told him he was a hero.”
But Miller did not find out that her 70-year-old father had put himself between the shooter and a stranger until Dean contacted Miller’s brother on Facebook later that night. Miller called her father, who was on his way to board a cruise ship with his wife, Jennifer Cleeton, and tried to ask him about the selfless act. Bartosiewicz did not want to talk about it, Miller said.
“He’s always been very selfless,” Miller said. “He always tries to find the positive in things. He’s always been a very amazing guy.”
Miller said she was not surprised when she learned what her father had done. “It made sense,” she said.
Bartosiewicz and his wife will be in the Caribbean on a cruise until next Saturday, Miller said. After the shooting, Bartosiewicz told Miller he no longer wanted to go on the vacation. “I just want to go home,” he told her.