Stories About The Pulse Shooting By Survivors, Parents And First Responders In Their Own Words

Photo: PublicRadioInternational
Stories From Pulse By Survivors, Parents And First Responders In Their Own Words
Buzz, Heartbreak

June 12th, 2017 marks 1 year since the tragic event.

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Pulse night club shooting.

On June 12, 2016, terrorist Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 loved ones, and injured 53 others at Pulse, an Orlando, FL gay nightclub. 

It was, and still is, the deadliest mass shooting on U.S. soil and the worst terror attack since September 11, 2001.

This wasn't just an attack on our country, on our land, but on the LGBTQ community.

The impact this tragedy had reached farther than Orlando.

It touched the hearts of millions; those in the LGBTQ community, their loved ones, and anyone with a human heart.

The victims leave behind so many; those that were with them the night of the tragedy, and those that were not.

Instead of posting pictures on social media, attending weddings or birthday parties, now the survivors only have memories.

Here are just a few of the many that were affected by this senseless act and their stories.

These stories and images are courtesy of DearWorld.org — a beautiful site full of stories of strength, love and bravery.

If you'd like to read more stories, you can check out DearOrlando.org here.

1. Mina Justice, mother of Eddie Justice.

" ... 2:06 a.m., I got a text. 

'I love you Mom.'

And I was like, what is this boy doing? 

Then, the phone rang. It was him. 

'Call the police.'

So I'm on my work phone calling the dispatcher. 

'Mom, tell them to hurry up, I'm in the bathroom. He's coming.'

I feel stupid, I really do, because I said, "Get off the phone so he won't hear you. Text me."

So he got off the phone.

I got down there in eleven minutes, driving like I was a police officer. That's when I saw all the roads blocked off. I don't know nobody, don't have nobody, and I'm just walking up and down the sidewalk. 

They moved us to the hospital. People would come in, calling names. My family got there. I hadn't ate nothing in 24 hours. 

They told us to go home. 

I went to his apartment. I went in and I was like, he's here, I see shoes. 

I wasn't there more than ten minutes and the FBI called. 'Miss Justice, we have some questions.'

And I said, 'No you don't. You going to tell me my son is gone.' 

He was the sixth person to be identified. Eddie Justice. 

And I was like No, it's not him. 

'Yes, Ms. Justice, we got his ID out his pocket and we're so sorry.'

And from that, I don't remember anything, I just fell out. And I couldn't comprehend nothing. I can't. 

I went to the bedroom. My heart is gone, he's gone. He's not there, he's gone.

He was my life. That boy was my life. 

I would give anything to have him back."

2. Emily Addison, partner of Deonka Drayton.

“Deonka loved my cooking. She always used to say my cooking gave her the itis. It means it made her sleepy, very sleepy.

Like, ‘Yeah, oh man, I'm full. I'm ready to go to bed.’

I boiled the turkey necks. After it was boiled real good and the meat was falling off the bone, I'd put some golden mushroom soup inside of the water, and it would be like a gravy turkey neck thing you put on top of rice and cabbage on the side.

That was her last meal. Our last meal together.

The next morning I saw the text messages. I tried to contact her, but her phone was going straight to voicemail.

The text messages said, ‘Emily, they shooting at folks. I'm scared.’ The next one said, ‘In bathroom. People are shot.’ The next one, ‘I’m scared.’ The next one , ‘Please call the police.’ The last one said, ‘If I die, please call my mom.’”

3. DJ Ray Rivera.

You can probably tell by the bags under my eyes, I have a hard time sleeping. Honestly, it's been a rough year. I go to counseling. I think it's more the fact that I don't take anything for granted anymore. Sometimes my son will want to do something or my wife will want to do something. I'm just so tired. Now I make the time to actually say, ‘Okay. You know what? Let's go ahead and go.’

On being a straight DJ getting into gay nightclub scene

I don't know if you've ever heard of Club Firestone. It was probably one of the biggest clubs back in about the early 90s. Probably the biggest nightclub in Orlando. I started my residency there in 1999. I was doing the Latin night and there was three rooms just like Pulse. You had salsa ring and bachata.

The owner decided to put me on Saturday night, which was their gay night. 

That first night, I was really just nervous. Then when I got home, I told my wife how it went. She said, ‘See, I knew you were going to do fine.’

It baffled my mind that the first night that I started doing the gay night, that it was all about just dancing and having a good time. I had done straight clubs before and stuff like that. There's a lot of BS that comes with when you're doing a straight club because guys are fighting over their girlfriends or girls are fighting over their boyfriends, but doing that, doing the Saturday night ... Wow. Everybody was dancing and having a good time. It didn't matter if I had played Beyonce or Destiny's Child back then or Jay-Z. It didn't matter. We were all having a great time. 

Friends schooled me on how the club is. You get a lot of stereotypes. When people go to a gay club, but for me it was like once they found out I was straight and I was married, ‘Oh, okay. Let me buy you a drink.’ They'd buy me a drink and then we'd talk. Then they'd meet my wife and then we're all talking. The next thing I know, we're all hanging out the next weekend at the club.

I'd rather go to a gay club and hang out with my wife and friends than go to a straight club. 

4. Survivor Orlando Torres, friend of Anthony Laureano.

"The last person that I saw was Anthony Laureano. I saw him and I kissed him hello. 

I was in the hospital bed when I saw his picture pop up as one of the 49.

Us guys in the gay community, we kiss each other on the cheeks hello. That's what us Latin people do. I was happy to see him as I was going to the bathroom with my friend. 

‘Hey, how you doing, Anthony?’

We hugged, I gave him a kiss. 

‘Hope you enjoy your night and have a good night.’

I went to the bathroom. Within minutes, I started hearing all those gunshots. 

I said hello, but I didn't get a chance to say goodbye

That's what gets me."

5. Marissa Delgado, friend of Stanley Almodovar, III.

“Stanley was one of the first people that I met came out here. He was about 16, we used to work at McDonald's together. I used to take all the little teenagers with me everywhere, making sure that they got to work. That's how I became really best friends with Stanley. I moved him in with me to make sure that he stayed on a good path. And he did.

As time passes, you realize, 'Damn, this did happen. It happened to you, he's no longer here.'

When you see several people get murdered, when you're held hostage, when you get hit with bombs and shit falling all over you then you're in a hospital, it's a whole lot that people will never understand. I don't expect them to but I become more angry when people ask questions like,

'How does it feel a year later or how is your recovery?'

What recovery?

You think I'm supposed to recover because it's been a year? No booboo it just doesn't happen like that.

One of the common questions that I really do hate, 'Oh, how is your healing process?'

What?

It takes longer than that.

If Stanley ate a chicken nugget, he had to go get his weights and put them on. He’d put them on his feet and arms. He was already only about 120 pounds and he was trying to lose more. He was so into his body. He’d say, 'Yo, girl I got to stay skinny because that guy looked at my butt and he said it was nice. This chicken nugget we got to go work it out.'

I remember we went walking and then jogging, and I said, 'No, booboo I'm fat, you jog, I'm going to fast walk.' He's like, 'No, come on you got to put more motivation into it.' I've always been that insecure person due to my weight.

‘You got to get out of your egg shell,’ he used to say.

‘There's fatter females out there, they flaunt what they have and they're very proud and they don't care.’

He always wanted me to be happy with me.

‘I’m telling you you're going to be happy,’ he said.

One time when we were going out, he made me switch outfits, I wanted to wear jeans and he put me in a cheetah dress.

You can't always be a closed off person because like he said you're never going to live life. You're never going to know what life has to offer you if you're always antisocial and isolating yourself.

That was Stanley.

In life, everyone needs a Stanley.”

6. Officer Omar Delgado.

“The music was cut off, just the disco lights. No sounds. Just us talking, our radios going and we had to lower them. My radio didn't work.

Phones start ringing all over the place. The one that gets me is the one iPhone that was next to my feet that just kept going and going and going. I'm looking at the wall, I'm looking at the opening and I looked down, I looked back up, looked down, looked back up.

I knew what it was.

It was a phone but it kept catching me off guard.

I would see the caller ID, the picture. I was like, ‘I know this person's never going to be able to pick up this phone again.’

It was just ringing, ringing, ringing and with the vibration. The blood is coming out of all these poor people. It started making a pool of blood and it just started carrying away.

I was like, ‘Wow.’ That's when it started hitting me like, ‘Holy cow. This is something real serious.’

ON GOING BACK TO PULSE THREE WEEKS LATER

My department was like, ‘You're not getting any better. We're going to find somewhere else because that's obviously not working.’ They introduced me to a program made for veterans. It had this BRU (Bomb Rack Unit) that you put on. You're watching a video and they actually make you feel like you're back in Iran or Iraq or something in a Humvee and whatnot. It's all great for veterans.

But how's that going to help me as a first responder? They didn't have a video of Pulse so it was something new. I understand their philosophy. I would sit down and she would pop up the Google Maps and make me drive down I-4, get off on Anderson, make a left and make a right on Orange and pull up to the club. That was intense.

On the last day of the class they decided to do a field trip and take me to the club again. I wasn't ready, but they wanted me to go. I went with one of the guys in my class and he's a military guy. They're driving me because I was not fit to drive. We pull up to the Einstein Bagel parking lot. I didn't want to get out the car. He's like, ‘What's wrong, Omar? You need to get out. You're okay. What's wrong? What's wrong? What's wrong?’ It's hot as hell and I got so mad, I said, ‘Because where you're standing, there are bodies laying around all over the place because this right here was the triage.’

‘Oh my god. I didn't know.’

‘What do you mean you didn't know? Most people would do your homework before you try to do this field trip.’ She gets me to the corner and now I'm looking toward the hospital. The club is right behind me and I refused to look that way. I'm now across the street, because her main goal was to get me to the light box where I start my story. I get to the light box, I run in and that was her goal. 

It didn't happen because what's down the street? The hospital. What passed by? An ambulance, first truck, lights and sirens and that just took me back to that night. Here I am, 44-year-old police officer in the fetal position on the corner of Orange and Kaley when it's 100 degrees out and I just lost it. Now I'm crying. Traffic's slowing. People are probably looking at me like, ‘What the hell's wrong with this man?’

That has affected me a lot. I can understand their concept. They're trying to help but I think it was just a bit too soon. People were like, ‘How much time do you need?’ 

I don't know.

It's almost a year and I'm still struggling with it. You can't put a time limit on this and I wish, because if that was the case, I wish there was a magical pill that I could take and boom, ‘Hey, I'm back to the old Omar.’ I miss him. I miss being the old Omar. It's affected my kids.

I don't want to lose hope that I will be that person again."

 

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