Twenty-year-old victim Tiara Parker, who was preparing to leave the club with her cousin Akyra Murray and friend Patience Carter when the gunfire started, said, "I was just kind of nervous. I didn't know what was going on."
In the confusion, the three young women split up. Carter told reporters at a news conference at Florida Hospital in Orlando Tuesday that she and Murray made it out of the club but when they realized Parker wasn't with them, they decided to go back to get her. The two young women found Parker and about a dozen others and hid in the bathroom to escape the gunfire.
"And me, Tiara and Akyra were actually the last ones to actually get into the bathroom stall," Carter said. "So we're all scrambling around in the bathroom screaming at the top of our lungs ... people are getting hit by bullets and blood is everywhere and then there was a moment when he stopped shooting in the bathroom."
Parker was shot in the side and said her cousin Murray, 18, visiting from Philadelphia, attempted to negotiate with the gunman, telling him, "Stop, we're hurt, we're already hit, like don't ... like please leave us alone."
"He looked deranged," Parker said. "He looked like something was mentally wrong with him."
Parker said Murray was shot in the arm and Parker laid on top of it to try to stop the bleeding.
"I dropped to the floor because I feel the pain," she continued, adding that Mateen “tilted over and kind of looked at me. I guess he must have thought I died with my eyes open. And I kind of kept staring, thought in my mind he was going to shoot me in my face. But I was just sitting there and I just stared at him and after he got up and said, 'Oh yeah.'"
Parker said the gunman asked if there were any "black people in the stall."
"And we said yes, about six or seven of us in here," Parker said. "And he [Mateen] said, 'I don't have a problem with you guys, with what you guys have been through with slavery and everything, it's nothing personal I'm just trying to send a message to the government to let them know to stop killing my people in Iraq.'"
"And I remember him saying, 'Hey, you,' and he shot three more times and killed three more people," she added. "Then the shooter came into the stall with us. We could no longer hold the door... the stall didn't lock that's why we had to hold it."
Carter, a college student and aspiring singer also visiting from Philadelphia, said at the news conference, "I got shot in my leg and I was actually pinned under the person who was laying right next to me. So it was very painful and we laid there for hours and hours."
Carter emotionally explained that the body was shielding her from being shot further and potentially killed. "If it wasn't for that person shielding me, it would've been me shot, and I wouldn't be sitting here today to talk about it," she said.
Then, using explosives, law enforcement blew open the bathroom wall to take out the killer and was able to remove Carter, Murray, Parker and the other hostages.
"They killed him. I watched the killer die," Parker said.
Despite Murray's bravery during the unimaginable disaster, the recent high school graduate was among the 49 killed Sunday morning.
In her emotional interview, Parker remembered her cousin's strength during such a paralyzing situation.
"She's a hero," she said. "She came looking for me, to make sure I was going to get out with them... it was like she lived long enough to see that I was OK, and I did not want to let her go, I did not want to let her go... My cousin had the brightest future in front of her."
Another survivor of the attack, 21-year-old Alejandro Francisco, wrote an open letter to the suspect on 'xoJane' calling the shooting "... the worst attack - on love - on U.S. soil."
"I felt so lucky, but then at the same time I felt so guilty because I wish I had the opportunity to jump in front of a bullet for somebody else,” he told ABC News.
Francisco had just left Pulse when he heard gunshots ringing inside. "We started hearing gunshots, there was people running all over the place, there was blood. It was crazy," he said.