Heartbreaking photo series depicts those whose lives were touched by the Orlando nightclub shooting
This week marks the two-year anniversary of the shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, which was the deadliest mass shooting in the USA at the time. 49 people lost their lives that day, while many others were affected by the incident, whether they were survivors or loved ones of the deceased.
Last year, a company called 'Dear World' teamed up with photographer Daymon Gardner to create a photography series 'Dear Orlando', to honour the victims and their families. "Dear World honours the people who passed away, saved lives, comforted the injured and buried loved ones," Dear World founder Robert X. Fogarty told Orlando Weekly.
Have a look through these photographs, accompanied by the stories of those depicted.
1. Omar Delgado, Orlando police officer
"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.'"
2. Effrain Colon Ortiz, survivor
"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."
3. Leo Melendez, survivor and friend of Javier Jorge Reyes, who died that night
"I was in a coma for three weeks. On July 3rd, I woke up. The first person I saw was my mother. She was right there next to me because my mother never left my side. I remember seeing her and she started crying. 'Where's Javier?' That was the first thing I asked. She didn't say anything. She just stood quiet. A nurse came, other people came. We didn't talk about Javier until the next day. I asked her again. That's when she told me. 'You have to be strong. Javier is gone.'"
4. Orlando Torres, survivor
"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 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."
6. Emily Addison, whose partner died at Pulse
"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."
7. Mina Justice, whose son Eddie was killed in the attack
"I went to sleep. 2:06 a.m., I got a text. I love you Mom. 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."
8. Rodney Sumter, a bartender at Pulse, shot 4 times
"My son comes in. He brought me all these little gifts he made in class. Then I read his paper and I broke down. My son's a really big DC Comics fan. He loves superheroes. He made this poster: Batman is smart, Superman is fast, the Hulk is strong, but my dad is my favorite superhero."
9. Ray Rivera, DJ at Pulse
"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.'"
10. Luis Roldan, survivor
"I wake up. I'm not even crying. I'm smiling. Like I feel my lips at times, and at that time it felt so real, and I've never felt that before. I called his mom and she’s said, “I'm the only one who hasn't had a dream of him”. She thinks that it's because maybe he doesn't want to hurt her more than she's already hurting or something. Maybe she's not ready to see him in a dream."
11. Chris Hansen, survivor
"The first three shots: I thought it was music. I felt the bass in my body on the floor against that wall. I felt it. I saw it. I thought it was the music. Then glass shattering, the air filling with smoke. The flashing of the gun looked like a strobe light. Everyone getting down."
12. Rob Domenico, former board member at Orlando LGBTQ community centre
"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?' I took the phone. 'Ma'am, I apologize, but at this time we have not heard from your son. But if we do, we will take down your number and call you back immediately.' Of course, we never did. And that haunts me."
These testimonies just go to show how mass shootings like this aren't just tragic because of those that died, but those that survived and have to live with the trauma - and the family and friends whose loved ones were cruelly taken from them.
Our thoughts are with those affected by the events of that day.