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Azana therapist describes tense 45 minutes in hiding

Don Walker

Oct. 21, 2012

For nearly 45 terrifying minutes, Katie O'Rourke sat crouched inside a darkened, second-floor treatment room, with no windows, whispering to a 911 operator on her cellphone.

With O'Rourke, a 23-year-old massage therapist from Wauwatosa at the Azana Spa in Brookfield, was a co-worker, whom she named Mary, and two clients.

She had called 911 after hearing gun shots downstairs. "Quite a few of them," she said in a Sunday night interview hours after the rampage.

She said she was first told by 911 operators to leave the building.

"But I didn't know where the shooter was," she said.

So she made a decision. The four decided to stay put and hope for the best.

They took the massage tables, turned them over and put them against the unlocked door.

They turned off the room's lights, turned off the music and waited for help.

She said the 911 operator tried to keep her calm, and told her help was coming. O'Rourke told the operator what she could hear in the building.

She could hear the sprinkler going off in the hallway. "We didn't even know if the building was on fire," she said.

She did not stay on with the operator the entire time. But she would call 911 back, trying to find out when they would be rescued.

During their conversations, she was reassured that help was coming. O'Rourke told the operator exactly where they were located in the sprawling building.

After nearly 45 agonizing minutes, police showed up outside the barricaded door.

"The operator was talking to the officers outside the door," she said.

O'Rourke and the other three opened the door.

And then they fled the flooded building as quickly as possible.

"We all held hands, and got out of there as fast as possible," she said.

As they fled, O'Rourke said she stepped over a lifeless body on the first floor. Nearby, she saw another victim, apparently dead, on the floor.

"I don't even know how to describe it," she said of her experience. "It was scary. It was something else."

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Hidden Tosa

 

"Hidden Tosa" is a semi-regular feature where reporters Rory Linnane or Rachel Minske explore the closed down and closed off parts of Wauwatosa.

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