One year ago, dozens of people were killed and injured in the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Here are the survivors’ stories.
(Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
On the night of June 12, 2016, the world was forever changed for hundreds of people and the global LGBTQ community. After a shooter entered the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, 49 people were killed and 56 injured. Though a year has passed since the horrific incident, those affected by the shooting are still working through their grief and confusion. To help the survivors give voice to their lingering emotions, portrait and interview series Dear World, in collaboration with Atlanta photographer Daymon Gardner, met with those who survived the ordeal.
Over a four-day period, ex-lovers, siblings, parents, first responders and survivors of the attack shared their stories and were photographed with words from their personal interviews written across their bodies. Though the individuals who partook come from different walks of life, maintain different beliefs and reflect on the incident in various ways, they can relate to each other through the emotions of guilt, regret, hope and forgiveness that were spurred by the incident, reports MyModernMet.
The Dear Orlando project seeks to demonstrate how a singular event can forever change the course of one’s life — or even bring people together, for better or for worse. By sharing their stories, individuals affected by the shooting can share their burden with the public and remind others that life is precious, fleeting and oftentimes, unexpected.
Recalling the interviews, Dear World founder Robert Fogarty said:
“Sometimes they cried, sometimes they laughed, but each one, without a shadow of cliche, told us that they get up each day, put one foot in front of the other, and no longer take life for granted.”
Following are portions of each participant’s interview. Read their full stories on Dear World.
“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.” (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
It was a dream, but it felt so realistic…Eddie gives me a hug and he gives me a kiss. And the kiss and the hug felt, so real…I’ve never felt a dream that real. He said, ‘thank you.’ Those words: Thank you…Then he says this, “but I have to leave, it’s time.” (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
“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.” (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
And then the last time I heard from her she was when she was the karaoke host at a gay bar. She sent me a screenshot of her doing a frowny face because she was like, ‘I tried to call you because I’m doing Karaoke but you’re busy…’ The next day she passed. (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
“I had panic attacks thinking, ‘Is living out in the world going to be the same? Am I safe in the world again?’ (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
“The last time he saw him was outside the bar that night. He came early, he hugged and kissed him. He said, ‘I’m very happy as I met someone, he’s somebody.’ He went inside and that was it. (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
“Before the shooting, the last time I saw him was when I came to the U.S. He was two years old. I had to wait 11 years to see my son again.” (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
“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. (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
“That night at Pulse, he was missing. We were celebrating our birthdays together. I didn’t know where he was… I went back and I found him in the middle of the road, screaming. We hugged each other like we never hugged before.” (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
“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.” (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
“Leslie, one of our lead volunteers, didn’t know how to handle this one call. It was a mother asking where her son is. “Have we heard from her son?” (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
“We were friends since the seventh grade. We used to write our initials on everything. JAM. Josean. Amanda. Mercedes.” (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
“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…He was the sixth person to be identified. Eddie Justice.” (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
“I told Jean everything. I told him my first kiss. I told him everything before my mom because my mom is harder to talk to. Jean, he would tell me straight up.” (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
“She was like a lioness for her cubs. She would always say, ‘If I ever die I don’t want you guys to be sad, because I lived my life.’ (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
“You can probably tell by the bags under my eyes, I have a hard time sleeping. Honestly, it’s been a rough year.” (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
“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.” (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
“I took those bullets and all I could think about were my kids. To be able to get out, and for him to call me his superhero, it gives me the motivation to keep moving forward.” (Photo: Dear World / Daymon Gardner)
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