At about 11:45 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 1, 1966, it was hot on the University of Texas campus.
About 96 degrees.
But other than that, nothing seemed unusual about that summer school day to newly elected student body president Cliff Drummond.
And then, shots broke the morning calm.
"As I was walking toward the Tower on the West Mall, I was hearing the reports of the rifle, but it was not clicking [in my head] what was going on," Drummond said.
Gunfire on a college campus? It didn't make sense. It didn't seem possible.
"There were some students along the south wall of the Texas Union Building and they were all standing hunkered down, next to the wall. And they were shouting at me," Drummond said.
KTBC reporter Neal Spelce was about to be involved in the biggest story of his career. At first it wasn’t obvious to police, bystanders or the media if there was more than one person shooting from the Tower.
"Nothing like this had ever occurred anywhere before! This wasn't an event where you said, ‘Oh, this is just like so and so’ therefore you had a frame of reference. Everything was unfolding, new and fresh at the time amidst chaos, bullets, sirens, screaming, shots fired, people yelling. You were seeing people screaming, dodging and diving and hiding," Spelce said.
The only clear thing was that whoever was shooting from up there was an incredible shot.
The first victim from the Tower was the fetus of an 18-year-old pregnant student named Claire Wilson.
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Dr. Robert Pape treated her at nearby Brackenridge Hospital. He said Wilson was hemorrhaging badly and would lose the baby because she had been shot in the abdomen, as if the killer wanted to deliberately harm the baby.
Wilson collapsed on the burning hot pavement, and as her boyfriend, Thomas Eckman, tried to help her, he was shot in the back and died instantly.
"Another coed came out and laid down next to Claire and stayed there the entire time. You see her in the newsreels, as soon as it's over, there are a number of people that rush out to try and help Claire Wilson. This coed stands up and walks away, and she has never made herself known to this day," Drummond said.
Drummond became a true leader that day as he and a friend tried to help as the gunfire erupted around them.
"As we ran across The Drag, he began to fire at us because he could see us at that point. The shots were close but into the pavement, and I remember feeling the pavement exploding around us," Drummond said.
They soon discovered one man they tried to help was already dead, but there were others who'd been hit, still alive in the sniper's sight. They helped move injured people to waiting ambulances. At the time, there was no EMS and the ambulances that arrived were from area funeral homes.
About 20 minutes into the attack, civilians started to arrive with deer rifles. They helped police return fire.
Austin police officer Ramiro Martinez ran toward the South Mall. He saw blood on the sidewalk. He'd later learn it was the blood of friend and fellow officer Billy Speed. A shot aimed right through a narrow space between concrete balusters ended the officer's young life.
"I looked, and I could see dead people, wounded people, and I could never forget the pregnant woman there just squirming in the hot sun, you know. And I could see them all out there. And I knew that if I stopped to help anybody, or drag them out, that I'd probably be another casualty. So I said, 'I'd come here for one purpose, and that's to try and get the sniper,' " Martinez said.
Pistol in hand, Martinez made his way up the Tower. The elevator let him out on the 27th floor, where Officer Jerry Day and a citizen named Alan Crum had arrived minutes earlier.
"And one man came out. He had a pair of white women's shoes. They had blood on them, and he said, 'Let me have your gun,' he said, 'He killed my whole family.' And so we had a little wrestling match with him there, to restrain him," Martinez said.
That man was M.J. Gabour. Four members of his family had been shot, two of them fatally. The Gabours – father M.J., wife Mary, and sons Mike and Mark – were visiting Austin from Texarkana with M.J.’s sister Marguerite and her husband, William Lamport.
Mark and Marguerite were found dead, one of the first victims inside the Tower.
As Martinez and Crum headed to the top floor, Martinez found out Crum was a civilian and quickly deputized him. They had to step over the bodies to make their way up to the Tower's observation deck. Down below, armed citizens shot back with their deer rifles, offering resistance to the shots fired from above.
"He was running to all four sides of the Tower, he was leaning over, he was shooting. He was killing people, wounding people. Then after a while, the fire started to be returned to the Tower, so he was dodging and ducking and crawling around and all," Spelce said.
Martinez and Crum were soon joined by APD Officer Houston McCoy, who had just made his way to the top carrying a shotgun. When the three finally arrived on the observation deck, they still didn't know how many shooters they were about to face. They also had to dodge the fire sent back up from the citizens below.
"They must have seen my head, or something, because all of a sudden about three splats went above my head," McCoy remembered.
The three spotted a man wearing a white bandana, cornered him, and fired.
About five seconds and it was all over with. And so when he was dead, I started hollering, waving the shotgun, 'Stop shooting!' Of course, nobody could hear me," Martinez said.
Ninety-six minutes after the first shot from the Tower, McCoy and Martinez ended the terror. Fourteen people were dead, and more than 30 were wounded. A quiet calm of death took over the campus as police removed bodies from the Tower.
"There were probably 1,500 to 2,000 people gathered around, waiting, being totally silent. It was only very low talk. It was eerily quiet, and it was incredibly hot," Drummond said.
As crowds gathered below the Tower to assess the aftermath, the setting for pep rallies and graduation ceremonies was transformed into a scene of unbelievable carnage.
And one question had an answer. The shots fired came from a lone gunman.
His name: Charles Whitman, a name that would forever be associated with the Tower that had been his co-star in a deadly drama for 96 minutes.