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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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Puerto Ricans Who Voted On Sunday Overwhelmingly Voted For U.S. Statehood The Other 77 Percent Of Voters Stayed Home

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Puerto Ricans Who Voted On Sunday Overwhelmingly Voted For U.S. Statehood The Other 77 Percent Of Voters Stayed Home

NYCMayorsOffice / Flickr

What the Puerto Rico Statehood Vote Means

Puerto Rico voted to become the 51st state but here's why it probably won't happen.

Posted by AJ+ on Monday, June 12, 2017

Over the weekend, Puerto Ricans took part in a non-binding vote, or plebiscite, to decide the island’s future on one key issue: whether or not to be become the 51st state in the United States of America. It was the second such vote within the last 5 years, with the previous plebiscite on the same issue occurring in 2012. In both instances, people voted in favor of statehood. Both referendums suffered from low turnout.

The 2012 referendum brought in over 800,000 voters, with 54 percent voting for independence. This last round of votes brought in a little over 500,000 — just 23% of the island’s 2.2 million eligible voter population — but this time 97 percent of those who voted chose statehood.

Feelings were mixed and have been on the island about the issue of statehood.

Many are hoping that becoming the 51st state will help turn around the island’s 45% poverty rate and $70 billion debt. Others think the vote was a waste, because the last vote in 2012 ended up with congress not making a determination on the island’s status. Even if the current plebiscite is indeed seen as legitimate, it would still be up to congress to decide whether or not to do anything about it.

The official word on what President Trump and his administration thinks about the vote was given by Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

Credit: The White House / Youtube

“This matter is something that’s going to be determined now that the people have spoken in Puerto Rico this is something that congress has to address, so the process will have to work it’s way out through congress.”

Texas congressmen Joaquin Castro made his feelings on the matter very clear.

Several congressmen made similar statements on social media.

Marco Rubio didn’t have an opinion one way or the other, but did encourage people on the island to go out and vote on the day of.

He took a bit of a hands-off approach.

However, Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez, vehemently opposed the vote.

The congressman called the whole plebiscite a farce and released a statement on his website addressing his thoughts. As a son of Puerto Rican migrants himself, he had very strong opinions about the vote. On his website his press release read:

“The supporters of statehood are selling a fantasy that a Latino, Caribbean nation will be admitted as a state during the era of Donald Trump; That states, many of which supported Trump, will accept a Spanish-speaking state that will receive just as many Senators and maybe even more House seats than they currently have; And all of this for an Island the U.S. has made deeply in debt with a sputtering economic engine that leaves Puerto Rico significantly poorer and more dependent than even our poorest states.  I do not point out Puerto Rico’s problems to denigrate my fellow Puerto Ricans, simply to point out the reality that what is being peddled by the supporters of statehood is a fantasy.

Let’s focus on job creation that showcases the talent and creativity of the Puerto Rican people.  That is the path forward towards a brighter economic future, which is the fundamental bedrock on which Puerto Rico survives and thrives and grows, regardless of its political status.

Those who advocate statehood in Puerto Rico will claim that this Sunday’s vote is a referendum on statehood.  That is a fiction, because it’s clear that only one party will participate in the one-sided election and because the U.S. Government has not made any sort of commitment to honor this vote.  So, regardless of how carefully the Statehooders dress it up to look like a legitimate democratic process, the June 11 plebiscite is a farce.”

It seems as if, just like before, folks are undecided left and right as to what to do about this vote. One thing is for certain, statehood won’t happen overnight and Puerto Rico needs help now.

[H/T] Associated Press

READ: The Final Vote To Determine Puerto Rico’s Future Is Coming And Trump’s Administration Wants To Sabotage It

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