I was awakened by my husband around 0500 hours when he checked my cell phone which was on the nightstand next to me. He said “Stacy, get up. Come see what is on the news. You need to call work.” Blurry eyed and straight out of bed I looked at the TV to see what he was talking about. As I frantically started calling and texting my coworkers, I threw my uniform on and hurried into work.
On my drive in was when Officers breached the building. I think my 30 minute drive was made in half that time if not less. Listening to the coverage on the radio they were saying “10 dead”, that number continued to rise throughout the morning. Once at the office, my partner and I were sent to a substation to “process” the SWAT team after they were debriefed. I will never forget walking into that room, their faces, these are men I have known for years.
As my partner and I photographed and collected ALL of their gear, one of the SWAT Officers (whom I’m closest with) came over and asked me “Have you been inside the club.” He told me he prayed I didn’t have to go inside, it was like nothing he had ever seen. Later that day I would know exactly what he meant. My partner and I then took all of the bloody wet SWAT gear back to our office. The next few hours were spent documenting and counting everything we collected from SWAT. As the day progressed we continued to hear updates. The number of victims continued to rise, 15, 20, 25; we thought it was going to stop but the count kept rising until it reached, 49.
It was around noon that day when I finally made it to the club. I met with two of my coworkers, my old midnight shift partners. Shortly after my arrival my two old partners suited up and accompanied FBI Agents inside to do an initial walkthrough of the scene. As they walked back out their faces said it all. I was beginning to believe what I was told earlier that morning by my SWAT friend. As a CSI our job was to assist the FBI in capturing 3D scans of the inside and outside of the club to document the scene. I then suited up and entered the scene with my partners. I remember various things quite vividly from my time inside the club. I remember having to step over the shooter. I remember being ankle deep in water; it was red, filled with blood (this was a stark contrast to the yellow plastic shoe covers we were wearing.) I remember working around the victims in the various rooms we scanned. I remember looking out into the daylight through the gaping holes in the back wall of the club. I remember walking through a silver beaded curtain which lead to the dance floor area. I remember that the dance floor still had the club lights flashing and cell phones still ringing. I remember walking across the dance floor, stepping around the many victims, being careful not to slip in all the blood. I remember saying silent prayers for all of them. I remember leaving the scene, with the victims still inside, which was not easy. The next week would be filled with assisting multiple other agencies with the investigation.
Eight days after the incident I was tasked to take final photos of the club before the scene was turned back over to the owner. Again, my job was to document the inside/outside of the club; this time it was to document how it had been left after the FBI finished their investigation. The club felt very different this time, no flashing lights, no cell phones, all of the furniture was pushed into the middle of the rooms and all the debris had been swept into piles. There were still half consumed drinks on bar tops, food left on tables, and helium balloons tied to flowers still floating in the air. I crawled into every single space of that building. I caught myself visualizing the victims as I saw them there 8 days before. Nothing was where it once was; all the blood we were so careful not to slip in had dried into the floor. Once I was done photographing the club I realized it was over. The scene was complete; I was the last Investigator to be inside.
Stacy was tattooed on June 3, 2018 by artist Robert Hawley at Ascension Tattoo in Orlando, Florida.