SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA.com) — Julie Swann Paez said the killers of the San Bernardino terror attack quickly turned her moment of joy into horror that forever changed her life two and a half months ago.
Paez was among the 22 people wounded Dec. 2 when Syed Farook and his wife opened fire on a group of people at a holiday party inside the Inland Regional Center. Fourteen people were killed.
Paez was shot twice in the pelvis and spent weeks in the hospital in excruciating pain. She was one of the last survivors to leave the hospital.
This is the first time Paez has appeared on camera to share her ordeal. Until now, she was too physically and emotionally injured to tell her story. “Feeling pretty good. I have good days, and I have bad days,” Paez said.
The 50-year-old is now in rigorous rehab, hoping for a full recovery. But with bullet fragments still inside her, it may take a while.
Her body is now fused with an external fixator. “This is basically gives structure to the pelvic bones. The circle part of the bottom of the bone was basically shot away on my left side,” she explained.
Paez said the day of terror began not long after she accepted an award for her service as a land-use inspector.
As the group was taking a break, “I heard something at one of the doors – something had bumped or loud outside the door. I looked over. And that’s when I saw him come through the door and really began shooting pretty much right the away.” Paez recalled the shooters were in black with masks on.
At first, she thought it was a drill. “Then it struck me this wasn’t a drill when I saw things actually flying around the room. It was very quickly after that I was still down and I was shot. I only saw one person. I wasn’t popping up my head and looking around,” she added.
Paez said she was shot once and then again but never saw the gun pointed at her. “I was shot the first time and shot a second time later after a few minutes. Honestly, I don’t know what was going on in the room at the time, and I purposely tried not to pay attention to that because I knew that I didn’t need that. I wasn’t trying to make memories of everything that was happening because I knew what was happening was kind of horrific.”
Finally, the guns went silent and paramedics arrived. Paez was pulled to safety. She took a picture of herself and sent it to her family, saying she was shot and that she loved them. She didn’t know then that she would be alive to see them again.
“I would take a bullet any day and take whatever pain it takes to get through that before I would have them deal with having their mom die,” Paez said.
She plans to walk again without a walker. And wants to return to work this fall.