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San Bernardino Shooting Victim Tells Her Story

Prior to the Orlando shootings, the deadliest terror attack on American soil since 9/11 happened in San Bernardino, California on December 2nd, 2015.  The perpetrators: the son of a Pakistani immigrant named Syed Farook, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik.  Shortly before 11 AM, the duo walked into the Inland Regional Center, where Syed worked, and opened fire.

A few hours earlier and a few miles north, Michelle Saltis debated calling in sick to work.

“You know when you wake up in the morning, or you know something’s wrong, or off?  That’s kinda how I felt that day,” Michelle said.

For the last year, Michelle had been working as an environmental health specialist for the county.  And when she first started, she trained under Syed Farook.

“He was the type of person who kept to himself.  He didn’t really get too involved with anybody.  He just seemed distant,” Michelle recalled.  “I just remember the day I went on a ride-along with him.  He had told me he was expecting a baby, and I was like, ‘oh, congratulations’, but he was disappointed.  I just remember him telling me, ‘Well, it wasn’t in our plans.’

The authorities are still trying to piece together those “plans”.  But here’s what they know.  On the morning of December 2nd, that baby was dropped off at her grandmother’s.  And then at about 8:48 a.m., Syed arrived at work, and sat down a few feet from Michelle.

“The whole time, he was kinda quiet.  The only thing i remember is when he was sitting there, he was looking at his cell phone.  He picked it up and did something to it.  And then the next thing i knew, I remember seeing him stand up and walk away,” Michelle said.

Twenty minutes after he left, syed returned, with his wife.  Both dressed in tactical gear... And armed to the teeth.

“All of a sudden, I hear gunfire,” remembered Michelle.  “I looked behind me, and I see a person standing there.  And I saw him lifting the rifle up and start spraying the room right-to-left.”

“I just immediately got down on the floor real quick, trying the get out of the way, and just lay there like I was dead already, like if he already shot me.”  

Michelle was standing next to her friend, Yvette Velasco, at the time.  Yvette was killed during the melee.  She was 27.

“The firing went on, I don’t know how long, it seemed like forever to me,” said Michelle.  And the next thing I know, the firing stopped.”

But the two terrorists weren’t done quite yet.  Before they fled, one of them paid a final visit to Michelle.

“That’s when one of them came by and kicked me in my right leg. And then I just hear ‘boom.  Boom, boom, boom’,” she said.  “And I just knew ‘I’m hit.’”

Armed with an AR-15 Rifle, one of the terrorists fired a few shots at Michelle at point-blank.

“I didn’t know if i was going to make it or not,” said Michelle.  “I just laid there and the first thing I did was turn to God.  I started praying.  I told Him, ‘God, I’m ready.  I’m ready to go home with you.  I’m okay with that.  But if it’s not my time, I just ask that you protect me.  That you shield me, keep me safe.  And keep everyone in here that it’s not there time, keep them safe.  Protect them.   And I just kept talking to him, praying that over and over.  And I just knew, I said, ‘God, please help me to stay calm.  I need to stay calm.’”

Within minutes, hundreds of officers were on the scene, but syed and his wife were already gone.  It’s believed that at this point they tried – and failed – to detonate the pipe bombs they left behind.  Back at the center, Michelle Saltis tried to move.

“It was literally like I was in a movie,” she said.  “The next thing I know, the cops show up.  I didn’t know who they were at first.  I was scared still because I saw them with a bunch of guns and thought, ‘oh great, more people in here to shoot us.’  I just remember hearing them say ‘if you’re injured or hurt and you can walk, let’s go, if not, stay there.  We’re going to bring help’.  And I said to myself, ‘I am injured.  I know it’s going to be hard to walk, but I need to get out of here.  So I grabbed my purse and ran out.”

Meanwhile, Syed’s wife pledged her allegiance to ISIS on social media.  Back at the center, Michelle Saltis was hurt – but she was alive.  Somehow, some way, the bullets fired by the terrorists missed her.  Within minutes, she was rushed to the nearby St. Bernardine’s Medical Center.

“I remember I started to cry,” Michelle said.  “I knew I was going to be okay.  I know that God is with me.

Sometime around 3:00, a tip led police to Syed’s house.  He and his wife fled in a rented SUV before being killed in a shootout with the cops.  Around that same time, Michelle woke up from surgery – and learned the identity of her attackers.

“I’m like, why did he have to do this?”  Michelle said.  “And Isay, “you know what, I have to forgive him.  Because that’s what God would do.”

“If I were to forgive him, even though I don’t like what he did, it’s going to help me move on.  It’s going to help me heal.  If i don’t, it’s just going to only make things worse.  It’s going to make me keep that anger and get that hatred.  That’s not what i want.”

Fourteen people died during the San Bernardino shooting.  Michelle Saltis should have been number 15.

“The amazing thing is God’s grace.  Because when I was in the room, when I was laying there on the floor, when i said that prayer, I literally felt this – like, shield over my body,” she said.  “And when he or she shot me less than three feet away, they missed.  And I tell everybody it’s because i had God’s shield over my body, protecting me. He’s answering my prayers.  He told me in a sense, it’s not my time.  He has something better planned for me.”

Today, Michelle is still under doctor’s care.  She hopes to return to her job soon.  And every now and then, she has flashbacks and sleepless nights.  Still, Michelle is alive – and stronger than ever.

“Before the whole incident, I actually started questioning my faith,” she said.  “I started feeling like it’s not enough.  But when this happened, without question, I turned to God. It made me realize my faith wasn’t weak.  It’s even become stronger since this whole thing.  God was with me that morning when I started to decide not to go to work. And when this whole thing started happening, He was by my side, and I turned to him right away.  I knew God was with me the whole time.  His grace is why I’m still here.”

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