The first 911 call from inside Pulse starts with a whisper.
A soft-spoken man told the operator he was trapped in the men’s bathroom with 15 other people. He pleaded for medical attention for the people wounded in the initial burst of gunfire more than an hour earlier. The dispatcher, who identified himself as Joe, wanted to pass the caller to a paramedic to walk him through first-aid for a man who was shot in the chest, but it was impossible.
“I can’t reach him to help him,” the caller said. “There’s a dead guy laying on top of me.”
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OK, Joe said. Police are coming, he said. You should hear their robot knocking on the door. Yes, the unidentified man said, he could hear it.
But “there’s a dead body blocking the door. Just to let you know,” he said. Two, actually, he corrected himself. And one injured person.
No one in the bathroom saw the shooter, he said. They heard the gunfire start and ran for safety. While they were huddled in the bathroom, the shooter leaned through the door and fired 17 shots into the stall, by the caller’s count.
Over the next hour and a half, the caller repeatedly begged for immediate medical help as the operator assured him police would get to them as fast as they could. While they waited, the caller soothed the crowd and watched over the injured.
He made the girl with a leg wound pinch her leg to make sure she didn’t lose feeling, and when she passed out, he had someone splash water in her face. He even talked to her mom on the phone, assuring the woman that her daughter was OK. “We’re getting her the best care we can,” he said.
As the man who was shot in the chest faded in and out of consciousness, the caller told him to blink if he could hear him. After a while, he stopped blinking back. His identity was redacted from the audio, so it’s unclear what happened to him.
When another wounded person started to pass out, the caller peppered him or her with questions.
“You with us? What’s your name? Last name? Where you from? What are you doing in Orlando? What do you like to do to have fun? What’s your favorite color?” he asked.
The wounded person replied quietly: rainbow.
“Rainbow is your favorite color?” the caller asked. “You like Skittles?”
The caller was insistent, even as the wounded person faded. “Come on Skittles, you’ve got to stay with me, Skittles,” he said. “Breathe.”
He repeatedly assured the group that help was on the way and to stay calm. “Count your blessings, baby. Count your blessings,” he said.
The caller’s comforting reaction to the group prompted the dispatcher to ask “Do you know everybody in there with you?”
“No, but I’m learning as I go,” he said. “I’m not good with names but [these are] faces I’ll never forget as long as I live.”
More than an hour after the call began, Joe told the caller to listen for a “small boom.” He said police were coming to save them.
“If they tell you to get down, get down,” Joe said. “If they tell you to put your hands up, put your hands up.”
After a beat, the first muffled explosion was followed by four increasingly loud booms, the last of which was met with screams. The police burst through the bathroom wall, screaming “hands up” at the victims inside.
There were three bleeps on the audio, which may have been the gunshots that felled shooter Omar Mateen in the adjacent bathroom. The last six minutes of audio are chaotic and loud.
Occasionally, Joe asks if the caller is still there. He doesn’t answer.