PHILADELPHIA – The mother of a Philadelphia teenager who was among the 49 people killed in the Florida nightclub attack said she was on the phone with her wounded daughter as she cowered in a bathroom stall hiding from the shooter.
Akyra Murray, who turned 18 in January, is one of the youngest victims in the weekend attack. Natalie Murray spoke with The Associated Press on Monday as she and her husband drove to the county coroner's office to claim their daughter's body.
Last Monday, Murray graduated third in her class of 42 students at West Catholic Preparatory High School, where she had also been a 1,000-point scorer on the basketball team. She had recently signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Mercyhurst University in Erie.
To celebrate her graduation, Akyra Murray, her parents and her 4-year-old sister traveled to Orlando for a family vacation. Her brother, Alex, attends college in West Palm Beach.
On Saturday, Murray told her parents she wanted to party in downtown Orlando.
"She doesn't drink, she just wanted to have a good time," Natalie Murray recalled. "We dropped her off at 11:30."
At about 2 a.m., Akyra Murray sent a text message to her mother, telling her to pick up her and her cousins. She said there had been a shooting.
Moments later, the phone rang.
"She was saying she was shot and she was screaming, saying she was losing a lot of blood," Natalie Murray said.
Her parents sped back to the club from nearby Kissimmee, frantically trying to reach the teenager, who had been shot in the arm.
"I just tried to tell her to remain calm and apply pressure to the wound," Natalie Murray said. "All I could hear was my baby screaming."
Murray said her daughter was hiding in a bathroom stall, her arm bleeding for hours with no medical treatment.
Akyra Murray told her mother to call police and send help before the two hung up.
They never spoke again. "It was devastating," Natalie Murray said.
For 27 hours, Murray said the family searched Orlando-area hospitals looking for Akyra.
"We just wanted to know for ourselves," she said. "We wanted somebody to tell us something."
Late Monday morning, after calling a hotline set up by city officials, they received the news of her death.
Akyra Murray's father, Albert, posted several social media messages about his daughter after the shooting. He first asked for prayers as he tried to locate her.
"I've been waiting since 2:30am," he wrote late Sunday morning. "She was calling saying come get me I've been shot. Losing a lot of blood ... Can't find my daughter. Been here 9 hrs."
On Monday afternoon, Albert Murray wrote: "I lost my daughter, one of the greatest inspirations in my life."
He later posted: "I know she is in a safer place then (sic) America ... You can't even go on vacation."