On September 6, Whitney Austin was running late to work.
But as she walked through the doors of the Fifth Third Bank headquarters in Cincinnati, her life was changed forever.
That same morning, as ABC 7 reports, 29-year-old Omar Perez opened fire in the bank lobby, killing three people and shooting Allen 12 times.
Austin told ABC 7 that her mind immediately went to her children and how she wouldn’t get a chance to say goodbye:
“And that’s when my brain immediately went toward, ‘I’m dying. “I immediately thought, ‘I am going to say goodbye to my family,’ and I knew I couldn’t say goodbye to the kids – they were at school. I assumed he saw me move and he shot me several more times.”
Prior to playing dead until police arrived, Austin said she remembers pleading with Perez, begging her to let her live for her children’s sake:
“‘I have a 5 and 7 year old who need their mother. You need to save me. Come get me. Come get me.’ And he’s looking at me. At that point they track him and shoot him down.”
Cincinnati Chief of Police Eliot Isaac told WCPO that the shooter entered the bank through the loading dock before opening fire around 9 a.m.
The shooter was shot and killed by police.
Austin’s husband, Wallen, explained the phone call he received telling him that his wife had been shot:
“He said ‘She has been involved in an active shooting, she has been hit multiple times in her chest.’ And I was just reeling. I couldn’t put anything together.”
Austin told ABC 7 that her near-death experience opened her eyes to the importance of stricter gun laws. During her five-day hospital stay, Allen decided she would do something about it:
“This is about making sure our kids can go to school and not have to participate in active shooter drills on a weekly basis. This is so people like me can walk into their place of employment and not get shot 12 times.”
Austin took those thoughts and put them into action by starting a non- profit called Whitney Strong.
The organization’s goal is to help lower the amount of gun violence in America though promoting stricter gun laws and responsible gun ownership.