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Survivor of UT Tower shooting tells her story

Claire Wilson James says it was a beautiful, hot Texas day when she was walking with her boyfriend to put coins in a parking meter -- then a shot came from out of the blue. (KEYE TV)

The terrifying scars of August 1, 1966 have faded but the bullet holes are still visible on the outside of the University of Texas Clock Tower.

Author Gary Lavergne who wrote A Sniper in the Tower will never forget the story of Charles Whitman's first targets from the tower observation deck.

"It's pretty clear his first victims were Claire Wilson and Thomas Eckman," Lavergne said.

Claire Wilson James says it was a beautiful, hot Texas day when she was walking with her boyfriend to put coins in a parking meter. "I just remember a huge jolt," Claire said. "I don't remember pain. I just remember a jolt and Tom saying, 'baby, what's wrong?'"

The shot came from out of the blue. "Claire Wilson was pregnant and visibly so and his first shot went through her baby in her womb," Lavergne said.

"We were both falling," Claire said. "I had no idea what it was."

The second shot went through her boyfriend's back and killed him almost instantly. "I was just lying there and looking up," Claire said.

She says she'll never forget what the sky looked like that day. "It was just so blue," Claire said. "I just thought it was very blue. It was very beautiful really."

She also remember hearing voices nearby. "One person yelled out, 'we've got to help that pregnant woman,'" Claire said. Then somebody yelled out, 'no, we've got to help people there's still hope for.' I said well, I guess this is probably it."

Claire says she thought she was going to die in the middle of the great mall on the University of Texas campus that day.

"The bullet went through her entire front and left a fist size hole in her hip but she didn't bleed to death," Lavergne said. Then he says after about 90-minutes some "brave individuals" rushed to rescue her.

Claire survived. She would spend the next three months in the hospital. "I was just trying to survive," Claire said. "You know, it was just trying live you know. They had said I had 50 percent chance."

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