Cole Knapp started running when the shots rang out. He herded panicked patrons toward an exit door and pushed them through it. Outside, he yelled at them to climb.
"Everybody get over the fence as quickly as you can," the college freshmen shouted. As he hopped down, he saw a California Highway Patrol officer pulling someone over for a routine traffic stop. Knapp found himself yelling again. "There's a shooter in there!" he told the officer.
Inside the Borderline Bar & Grill in Ventura County, the dead and wounded covered the bloodied floor under a mist of smoke and cordite. The survivors of Wednesday night's mass shooting that killed 12 recounted how 28-year-old Marine veteran Ian Long, wielding a handgun, lobbed smoke grenades into the club before he calmly opened fire.
Madison Cummings knew she had to leave as soon as she heard the first shots. "I bolted," she said. "I don't understand how this has become such a normality. It's 'just another shooting in America,' she told The Los Angeles Times. "This is not what our country should be about."
Those who ran remembered hearing crying and yelling and being pushed and pulled as they tried to get away. The country dance club was packed with students for its regular "college country nights."
Many of the young patrons, who came of age during an era when active shooter drills were part of their curriculums, reverted to that training.
"He went for the security guard first," said Teylor Willard, standing outside the Thousand Oaks venue with friends. "I saw two more people drop. I froze for a second and I ran off the dance floor. We all dog-piled on top of each other."
Erika Sigmond said she and a friend dropped to the floor and hid under bar stools. "I heard a bunch of people scream 'Run!' and I booked it as fast as I could to my car."
Tayler Whitler was on the crowded dance floor when the first shots erupted. People yelled "Get down!" she recounted, and for a few eerie seconds, it was silent. Then someone shouted "Get up, he's coming!" and people began running, knocking into each other as they ran for their lives.
John Hedge was at the front door, talking to his stepfather, when he heard "pop, pop, pop," he said. "I thought it was a joke when the shots started firing. I don't know how I didn't get shot."
Tim, his stepdad, had no question about what was happening. "I knew it was live. I knew it was real," he told a local station. He saw the gunman shoot the cashier, "just a young girl," he said.
He pulled his stepson to the ground, and then they hustled out the front door. Tim apologized for not doing more and for not staying to help.
"I should have stayed 'til he changed his clip, but I was worried about my boy," he said.
"I apologized to anybody who got hurt or passed."