Locals at Fort Lauderdale airport during shooting

Published 12:23 am Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Margaret and Otis Ryce are always thankful, but after Friday’s shooting in the Fort Lauderdale airport, the husband and wife are extra thankful to be alive.

Esteban Santiago, 26, is accused of gunning down more than a dozen travelers Friday near the baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Five people have died.

Santiago has been charged with murder and performing an act of violence in an airport serving international civil aviation.

He is also charged with using his service gun during a crime of violence.

Margaret Ryce said Monday that she and her husband were at the airport at the time of the shooting, but did not witness the rampage.

“I was in terminal one,” she said. “By an act of God, when I came from Atlanta to Florida, they didn’t notice my name was spelled wrong.”

Ryce said she was held up at security checking her name, but when she actually got to terminal one, she said travelers looked like zombies.

“I looked up at the monitor and saw what had happened,” she said. “I was shaken.”

Ryce said that if she wasn’t shaken enough, there was a rumor that there was a second shooter in terminal one.

Ryce said they were on the plane, but there was no pilot. The flight attendants had to have help getting the door closed to the plane.

“We stayed on the plane for about an hour,” she said. “And then went to the Tarmac.”

Ryce said that experiencing the act of terrorism is much worse than seeing it on TV, but she had nothing but nice things to say about airport officials.

“I can say this, everybody was just wonderful,” she said. “Probably half of the people hadn’t eaten and they brought snacks, water and juices to the Tarmac.”

The Ryces are still in Fort Lauderdale, Margaret spent the weekend in the hospital, but was feeling better on Monday.

“I’m apprehensive about flying,” she said. “Especially having to go back through that airport, but it’s in the Lord’s hands.”

Ryce said she is so very thankful for her church family and pastor.

“I’m anxious to get back to church,” she said.

Santiago could face the death penalty, if convicted, of two of the three charges.