At 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, my friend and I left for a party at the second-floor penthouse near the pool area at Seminole Grand. When we arrived, we felt an unsettling presence. We were tempted to leave but decided to stay in an effort to be considerate to the friends who invited us.
As the party went on, it became more crowded. People flooded in to watch the exotic dancers whom had recently arrived. My friend and I felt uncomfortable again, but this time, we decided to leave.
No more than five minutes after we left the party, we found ourselves standing in the stairwell calling people to secure a ride home.
Suddenly, we heard what sounded like a stampede coming from the top of the stairwell. We looked up to see a cloud of dust descending the stairs, followed by people. Finally, the screams of the terrified people struck our ears, and we ran for the door, too. We found out later that the floor collapsed with more than a hundred partygoers tumbling down with it.
As the cold night air hit us, panic ensued. The screams continued as people rushed to the locked glass door on the bottom floor. I realized that people were locked inside before understanding the full magnitude of what happened.
One girl in a frenzy yelled about her sister who apparently had been trapped in the crash. She took a nearby deck chair and smashed in the glass door while others punched in windows with their bare hands. People did all they could to help the fallen escape from the first floor.
Confused and petrified, my friend and I walked away from the scene of the party and began calling friends in the area. As we walked, we encountered men stumbling through the streets and gut-wrenching shrills from women who were separated from friends. Some female partygoers walked barefoot with their cheeks stained by mascara and tears as ambulances and police cars arrived to the scene. We heard others tell the story of their escapes and watched people being carried into ambulances on stretchers before we left.
The experience of that night will stick with me forever. I will always be touched by the fact that if I had not left when I did, my life would have been in danger. With 55 people injured, I feel truly blessed to have walked away untouched by the horrific accident, and I continue to pray for those who were affected.