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“Active shooter.”. “Multiple shooters.”. He helped Natalia shuffle across Giles Street and into the same parking lot where Marie and Summer were sheltering. McAuley lowered her onto a lawn chair behind a white SUV. “What can I do for you?” he asked, taking a knee in front of her. “I want to call my parents,” Natalia said. He dialed. Her dad, Mike Baca, picked up. McAuley explained who he was and that he was with his daughter, who had been shot. “Is she alive?” Mike asked.

McAuley gave her the phone, She said she couldn’t feel her legs, “Just breathe,” Mike told her, before he and his wife headed for their car, After hanging up, McAuley saw an older man jogging toward an Audi parked behind them, Reluctantly, he agreed to take them to a hospital, McAuley helped Natalia inside, He ordered the driver to turn on his hazard lights, find an ambulance and chase it, The man first ballet shoes did, blowing through red lights along the way, In the back seat, Natalia told McAuley that her left arm had gone numb, She was struggling to breathe..

“Do you have dogs?” he asked. Natalia said she had two, Kosmo and Vdara, both Boston terriers. He took out his phone and showed her a picture of Molly, his 100-pound Great Pyrenees. McAuley’s other hand moved to her wrist. At any second, he knew, Natalia’s pulse could plummet. He scrolled through photos of his wife and 5-year-old son. “You have a beautiful family,” she said. He asked about hers. Did she have any siblings?. A twin, she said, who’d also been at the concert.

“Do first ballet shoes you know where she is?”, “No,” Natalia said, At last, they pulled up to Sunrise Hospital, McAuley found a wheelchair and eased her into it, and then began pushing it up a driveway toward the trauma bay, They could already hear the moans, “Close your eyes,” he told her, “Don’t look around.”, Natalia stared down, and on the ground she saw an American flag bandanna, spotted with blood, Nearing the brightly lit entrance, Natalia raised her head, She saw doctors and nurses desperately trying to triage maimed, wailing arrivals being unloaded along the curb, She saw bodies in the beds of pickup trucks..

“Please help,” came the cries. “Please help.”. McAuley wheeled her past the sliding doors and through a wide corridor that staff members later called “the sea of blood.”. She’d been shot in the back, McAuley explained to a nurse. She had no exit wound, he said, but appeared to be stable, at least for now. He looked at Natalia. “You’ll be fine,” McAuley said. “I’ll see you later.”. She forced a smile. “Thank you,” she told him, before the firefighter ran back outside to help others.

A nurse changed her IV and wrote something in marker – vital signs, she thought – on her forehead, “It’s really hard to breathe,” she said, but in a hospital that would treat 199 patients from the festival that night, first ballet shoes nobody had time to care for her yet, One victim after another sped by atop gurneys, their wheels streaking a tile floor that had transformed from beige to red, The air smelled of iron, “Watch out, Watch out,” she heard, “Cardiac arrest,” she heard..

Natalia thought about her sister. It was in this hospital where their lives had begun. Where Gianna had been born first, crying, and Natalia had come out a minute later, making no noise at all. Where the doctors had been forced to resuscitate her because she wasn’t breathing. Where the girls had gone home, together, after just four days in recovery, stronger than anyone expected. Natalia closed her eyes. “Talia!” she heard a voice call. She looked up, and there, atop another gurney, was her twin.

“What happened?” asked Gianna, her left thigh bleeding from a bullet that had passed straight through it, Natalia motioned to her shoulder, “I love you,” Gianna said, “I love you,” her sister responded, The Monday morning sunlight leaked through the shades and into hospital room 272, where Natalia had spent the night in intensive care, A brace was wrapped around her neck, and on her face, a clear tube fed oxygen into both nostrils, Hours earlier, another tube that drained air and blood first ballet shoes seeping from her punctured lung had been shoved between two ribs as Natalia, screaming, clenched a nurse’s hand..