What does it feel like when a violent gunman, a controlled explosion, and a SWAT team turn your night of fun and dancing into a real-life nightmare? Without having been there, it's probably impossible to truly comprehend what happened on Sunday morning when a shooting broke out at an Orlando nightclub. Stories from witnesses of the Pulse nightclub shooting do paint a pretty harrowing picture, though. (Warning: Graphic and potentially disturbing content ahead.)
The shooting began around 2 a.m. local time, according to authorities. A police officer had already been stationed on the scene and responded when shots were fired outside of the popular gay club, as Pulse hosted a "Latin night" event. The gunman then entered the club, and a hostage situation ensued, lasting for about three hours. Law enforcement carried out a controlled explosion to blast a way into the club and ultimately shot and killed the gunman. The incident left approximately 50 people dead and many others injured.
When the violence broke out, there were more than 300 people in and around the nightclub, according to HLN Weekend Express. Some 30 people were taken hostage by the gunman. Meanwhile, other eyewitnesses hid in bathrooms, under cars, and elsewhere to escape the tragic incident.
Twitter user Brandon Wolf tweeted that he hid in a bathroom during the shooting and had trouble finding his friends. He later updated his followers that he was safe but one of his friends was shot and injured, while another was missing. He called the scene "total chaos."
Joel Franco tweeted a video of shots being fired outside what appears to be the scene of the incident. Police had swarmed the scene at that point. (Another warning here: The sound of gunfire in this video may be disturbing.)
Beyond the eyewitness accounts, many others took to social media on Sunday to let their loved ones know that they were safe. As authorities updated the death toll throughout the morning in press conferences, it became clear that the shooting at Pulse was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Stories from the scene in Orlando on Sunday morning talked of chaos, violence, and fear. Although the heroic actions of police and others nearby saved many lives, reports of injuries and fatalities also dominated the news. More details were expected to become public throughout the day on Sunday.