When 7-year-old Cheyenne Crist and her family landed in Fort Lauderdale shortly before 1 p.m. Friday, she expected to begin her cruise vacation to the Caribbean.
What she got instead was her second brush with an active shooter scenario.
Minutes after her family’s Delta flight from Green Bay, Wis., landed, a gunman whom authorities identified as Esteban Santiago opened fire in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2, setting off an hours-long ordeal that left five people dead and at least eight more injured.
"As soon as we landed, there was a whole bunch of people on the tarmac and the pilot came on and said there was an active shooter situation," Cheyenne’s mother, Alicia Crist, said at 10:30 p.m. Friday as they stood outside Terminal 2.
Crist’s sister, Emily Labs, and mother, Allison Labs, said their initial reaction was to hunker down and wait for the worst to be over.
Emily Labs said there also was "lots and lots of prayer."
Crist said her husband is in the Army and was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, when the most recent shooting occurred in May 2016. Her daughter also was present.
"It kind of follows us wherever we go," Crist said as she looked down at her daughter.
Allison Labs chimed in, "She’s a trooper."
Crist laughed and tried to lighten the mood, explaining that Cheyenne was tired since they had been awake since about 2 a.m. Friday to catch their flight.
"She’s an old pro, huh?" Crist said.
The family was among the thousands of people stranded outside the airport Friday evening as buses slowly trickled in to take people to Port Everglades. Many said they were stranded on their planes for about eight hours and planned to wait several more at the port.
The Crists and Labs said they didn’t have a plan yet, but hoped they maybe could catch up with their cruise at some point.
"[We’ll] see if we have a place to sleep, or if we’re going to do one of those sleep-on-the-bench things and regroup in the morning,"Allison Labs said.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com