Things That Matter

They Shared Their Heartbreaking Stories In This Emotional Pulse Shooting Photo Diary

The “Dear World” project has captured the stories of those closest to the tragic Pulse nightclub shooting.


On June 12, 2016, the Pulse nightclub shooting resulted in 49 lives being tragically cut short. Over the last year, photographer Daymon Gardner, working with the the “Dear World” project, has worked to ensure that the voices of the victims will never be silenced. In their beautiful photo essay, survivors — including EMTs, doctors, police, friends and family members — shared the powerful stories of how that night forever changed their lives.

Orlando Torres, a survivor, shared the last time he saw his friend Anthony alive.

CREDIT: Dear World : Orlando Pulse Series. Daymon Gardner for Dear World

“‘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.”

As the shooting started, many people, like Angel Santiago, tried to find safety inside the club.

CREDIT: Dear World : Orlando Pulse Series. Daymon Garnder for Dear World

“We were waiting for it to pass but it didn’t pass. It kept going and going and kept getting closer and closer and suddenly I realized there’s nowhere for me to go. I’m trapped. There’s no way I can get out. I was shot through the knee and through the foot so I couldn’t walk. I pushed my body underneath the stall, down the hallway and had to drag myself to the door. I thought I was gonna die.”

Rodney Sumter was serving drinks as bartender at Pulse when the shooting began.

CREDIT: Dear World : Orlando Pulse Series. Daymon Garnder for Dear World

“I remember getting hit in the arm. It felt like, you know how in middle school you fall asleep in class and you hit your elbow and you hit your funny bone? It felt like somebody shot my funny bone. It damn near blew my arm completely off. We knew that the police were outside but there wasn’t anybody to come save us at that point.”

Alison Clarke, from the Orlando Police Department, described how the night unfolded.

CREDIT: Dear World : Orlando Pulse Series. Daymon Gardner for Dear World

“I stopped at the intersection just north of the club. As we were running down the middle of Orange Avenue, a flood of survivors came running. They were panicked, crying. Teams started bringing victims from across the street. We just kicked in, setting up triage, started loading people up in any vehicle that we could find.”

Like many family members, Mina Justice, mother of Eddie Justice, shared the heartbreaking story of the last time she talked to her son.

CREDIT: Dear World : Orlando Pulse Series. Daymon Garnder for Dear World

“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.”

Others never got the chance to hear their child’s voice one last time.

CREDIT: Dear World : Orlando Pulse Series. Daymon Gardner for Dear World

For several hours, Dimarie Rodriguez, mother of Jean Carlos Nieves Rodriguez, had no idea if her son was dead or alive.

“I call my son’s roommate, ‘Go to his room and look at his bed.’ The bed was the same as it was when I saw it at 2:00 am., 3:00 am. I got scared. This is serious. I call a girlfriend, ‘Look at the media, police, the hospitals, the jails, please look for him. I don’t know where he is.’ And when she calls me back she says, ‘Listen, leave there. (sniffles) Come look for your son.'”

Jaimee Hahan was working at the hospital when the first victims started arriving.

CREDIT: Dear World : Orlando Pulse Series. Daymon Gardner for Dear World

“Someone said, ‘We’re getting some shootings.’ Okay. We do that all the time, I’m thinking. ‘There’s 20.’ I said, ’20? You mean somebody was shot 20 times?’ They said, ‘No. 20 patients.’ I was still just trying to process that. About five seconds later that the first one came in the door and the next one came in the door and they just never stopped. Just didn’t stop and it was devastating injuries.”

For police officer Omar Delgado, who helped secure the nightclub, the memories of the aftermath haunt him.

CREDIT: Dear World : Orlando Pulse Series. Daymon Garnder for Dear World

Officer Delgado explained that as he helped secure the nightclub, the sounds of cellphones ringing kept “catching him off guard.” Those calling were friends and family trying to reach the victims, who were laying on the ground, in pools of blood.

“Now phones just start ringing all over the place. The one that gets me is the one iPhone that was kind of 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 just 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.'”

Recovery, as survivor Marissa Delgado explains, isn’t defined by a length of time or an anniversary.

CREDIT: Dear World : Orlando Pulse Series. Daymon Garnder for Dear World

“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.

This is only a small sample of the stories and portraits from the Pulse nightclub series. Please check out “Dear World’s” entire collection here.

(MORE: #DearOrlando)

READ: The World Is Uniting With Orlando After Horrific Mass Shooting At Popular Gay Club

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Older Florida Man Throws Fit About Having To Wear A Mask To The Local Walmart

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Older Florida Man Throws Fit About Having To Wear A Mask To The Local Walmart

@CaliCoCo3 / Twitter

An older gentleman in Florida was captured on video freaking out because he was told that he had to wear a mask to enter the local Walmart. The facial mask has become a hot button issue as some people claim the best tool to defeat COVID-19 is infringing on their rights.

An older man is going viral after freaking out over a Walmart employee telling him he has to wear a mask.

There isn’t a lot of context about the video. However, one thing is clear, the older mand does not want to wear a mask. The video, taken in Orlando, shows an older man being confronted by an employee. The customer was attempting to enter the Walmart without wearing a mask.

The man, who is much smaller than the employee, did not want to hear it. Instead of following the rules and getting a mask, the man starts to physically assault the Walmart employee. At one moment in the video, the employee moves out of the way of the customer, who then fell to the floor in his rage.

Of course, people demanded the resolution of the video.

You can’t just post a video confrontation like that and just stop. The customer makes it into the store, likely because the employee did not want to get in trouble. However, the employees and other customers follow the unmasked man and demand that he leaves. He continues to fight back but it isn’t long that his face registers his defeat.

The man who refuses to wear a mask to protect public health starts to leave the store. On his way, he turns to the employee and yells some final, indistinguishable words.

The man lives in Orlando, where it is required for people to wear a mask when in a business.

The mayor of Orange County, Florida, which includes Orlando, mandated that people have to wear masks when they are in public. The mandate means that this man was supposed to be wearing a mask before entering the business.

Furthermore, many private businesses are requiring customers to wear masks when shopping. All businesses have a right to require customers to wear masks regardless of whether or not a city, county, or state requires it. It is no different than the no shoes, no shirt, no service policy.

The facial mask policy comes as Orange County, Florida is experiencing a COVID-19 spike.

Despite the state’s reopening, some restaurants in Orange County, Florida have had to close during this second spike. The restaurants were not ordered to do so. Instead, the companies took it up themselves to close and customers who had visited has tested positive.

Restaurants in Orange County, Florida have functioned at 50 percent capacity indoors since May 18.

READ: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Blames Latino Laborers In The State For Sudden Spike In Cases

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Four Years Later And The Grief Of The Pulse Nightclub Shooting Is Still Raw

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Four Years Later And The Grief Of The Pulse Nightclub Shooting Is Still Raw

Gerardo Mora / Getty Images

On June 12, 2016, a terrorist entered Pulse Nightclub with an automatic rifle. The gunman killed 49 people as they danced and celebrated life with friends and family. Four years later, the community continues to mourn the tragic loss of life during Pride Month.

It has been four years since the Pulse Nightclub shooting and the pain is still there for many.

The attack was a devastating reminder of the brutality still plaguing the LGBTQ+ community. The global LGBTQ+ community collectively grieved over the shooting and the loss of life. It struck fear into the hearts of LGBTQ+ people and their loved ones. It has been four years and that pain and fear still exist as the community continues to find ways forward.

The immediate action from the LGBTQ+ community was to join the growing battle against gun violence in the U.S.

“I remember dancing. I remember Juan’s goofy laugh. Drew’s long, gangly arm around my should as he said, ‘I wish we said I love you more.’ I remember we accidentally wore matching outfits and before I knew it it was 2 a.m.,” Brandon Wolf, a Pulse survivor said to Congress in 2019. “I can remember cold water from the faucet, a plastic cup teetering on the edge of the sink. I remember gunshots. Confusion. The rancid stench of blood and smoke. I remember the hair standing up on the back of my neck; my heart pounding as I crouched on the bathroom floor. I remember the face of terror on the faces of those people trapped in there with me; a panicked sprint to an open door. And I swear I can still hear every one of the 110 rounds that man pumped into the club.”

Wolf continues by talking about the confusion and desperation after as he tried to find his friends. How he had to call Juan’s family to let them know that he was dead. He talks about seeing his two best friends in caskets as a final reminder of the horrible nightmare he was living. Wolf then takes aim at the public health epidemic of gun violence that is devastated the country.

The Pulse survivor further called out President Donald Trump for emboldening this hate in America. Rather than unite the country to go together, Wolf argues that Trump has allowed for this kind of hate to go unimpeded and the ready access to guns has made this hate deadly.

People are sharing their stories and heartbreak on social media remembering the shooting.

Pulse Nightclub was an institution in Orlando for the LGBTQ+ community. Famous drag queens like Cynthia Lee Fontaine and Ginger Minj who live in Orlando have performed there. They have spoken of their own experience of hearing the news and trying to find out if their friends are okay.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is calling for greater protection for LGBTQ+ people.

“Four years ago, as members of the LGBTQ+ community were gathered together for Latin Night at Pulse nightclub during Pride Month, a terrorist armed with a semi-automatic rifle opened fire,” reads a statement from Biden. “He killed 49 innocent people and injured many more — at the time, the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman. And still today, it remains the deadliest attack on the LGBTQ+ community in American history.”

“The inaction of Republican lawmakers to address the scourge of gun violence in America is unacceptable,” Biden wrote. “As President, I will continue standing with you to build a more equal, more inclusive United States, where every member of the LGBTQ+ community is safe and respected.”

The Pulse shooting is a reminder every Pride Month of the battle the LGBTQ+ community still fights.

Hate took 49 people away from their friends and families. It was and continues to be a hard moment for the LGBTQ+ community, especially the Latino LGBTQ+ community.

Continue to rest easy, angels.

Your lives will never be forgotten. We love you. We miss you. We will continue to fight for a world safe and free fro LGBTQ+ people.

READ: Remembering The Victims Of The Orlando Shooting, Many Of Whom Were Latino

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