Yards from where workers finished the cleanup from the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting, a girl was reunited Tuesday with the teddy bear she left behind while fleeing.
Courtney Gelinas, 10, smiled as Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport spokesman Greg Meyer opened the trunk of his SUV to reveal Rufus, the teddy bear the Windsor, Ontario, fifth grader had received from her dying grandfather a decade ago. When Meyer handed her Rufus, she held the bear tight.
Courtney was with her parents and siblings and about to board a plane home when officials say Esteban Santiago fatally shot five people one floor below them Friday. Rufus, a brown bear dressed in a red devil costume, was left behind as the family fled onto the tarmac with hundreds of others. Her mother, Kim Lariviere, said Courtney has not slept well since.
"It is exciting and I am happy to have him back," the bashful girl said as she pressed against her mother's legs.
The airport has returned a "substantial" portion of the 25,000 stranded items left behind by fleeing passengers, including luggage, cellphones, baby strollers and "lots of Hello Kitty backpacks," Meyer said.
The airport was nearly back to normal Tuesday. The long lines from the weekend caused by delayed flights are gone. Only the area around the baggage carousel where the shooting happened remained sealed off as workers replaced carpeting, Meyer said.
Santiago, a 26-year-old Iraq war veteran with the Puerto Rico National Guard, remains jailed without bond on federal charges. Santiago, who had been living in Alaska, could face the death penalty if convicted. Officials say he had arrived on a connecting flight from Anchorage, retrieved his gun from its checked carrying case and began randomly shooting people.