The mother of a Philadelphia teenager who was among the 49 people killed in the Florida nightclub attack on Sunday said she was on the phone with her wounded daughter as she cowered in a bathroom stall hiding from the shooter.
Akyra Murray, who turned 18 in January, is one of the youngest victims in the weekend attack.
Last Monday, Murray graduated from West Catholic Preparatory High School, where she had also been a top scorer on the basketball team.
To celebrate her graduation, Akyra Murray, her parents and her 4-year-old sister travelled to Orlando for a family holiday.
On Saturday, Murray told her parents she wanted to party in downtown Orlando.
“She just wanted to have a good time,” Natalie Murray recalled. “We dropped her off at 11.30pm.”
At about 2am, Akyra Murray sent a text message to her mother, telling her to pick up her and her cousins. She said there had been a shooting.
Then, the phone rang.
“She was saying she was shot and she was screaming, saying she was losing a lot of blood,” Natalie Murray said.
Her parents sped back to the club to reach Akyra, who had been shot in the arm.
“I just tried to tell her to remain calm and apply pressure to the wound,” Natalie Murray said. “All I could hear was my baby screaming.”
Murray said her daughter was hiding in a bathroom stall, her arm bleeding for hours with no medical treatment.
Akyra Murray told her mother to call police and send help before the two hung up.
They never spoke again. “It was devastating,” Natalie Murray said.
For 27 hours, Murray said the family searched Orlando-area hospitals looking for Akyra.
“We just wanted to know for ourselves,” she said. “We wanted somebody to tell us something.”
Late Monday morning, after calling a hotline set up by city officials, they received the news of her death.
Akyra Murray’s father, Albert, posted several social media messages about his daughter after the shooting. He first asked for prayers as he tried to locate her.
“I’ve been waiting since 2.30am,” he wrote late Sunday morning. “She was calling saying come get me I’ve been shot. Losing a lot of blood ... Can’t find my daughter. Been here nine hours.”
On Monday afternoon, Albert Murray wrote: “I lost my daughter, one of the greatest inspirations in my life.”
He later posted: “I know she is in a safer place [than] America ... You can’t even go on vacation.”