Christopher "Drew" Leinonen, 32, and Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, were a loving couple who had plans to get married. Leinonen was a UCF alumnus who had graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s in psychology. Guerrero was just starting out as a pre-finance student at the university. On June 12, they were partying with friends at the gay nightclub Pulse when a gunman started shooting at them. Leinonen and Guerrero died that night along with 47 other people.
On Thursday, UCF unveiled a mural with the couple's likeness and a white Pegasus stallion on stone steps. For a moment, they look like any other students on campus, just sitting together and reading a good book. The piece was designed by artists Michael Pilato and Yuriy Karabash, who were already working in Orlando to create a bigger mural dedicated to Pulse survivors and victims' families. State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith says he connected the artists with the UCF administration to talk about a mural on campus.
"Juan and Drew were so much a part of the UCF family," Smith says. "UCF was deeply impacted by the tragedy, so I thought it would be a wonderful memorial to them. To have something here on campus for UCF students to remember them by was really important."
Pilato and Karabash worked with the families on the mural and helped them add handprints over Leinonen and Guerrero.
"He would be overwhelmed with what's been done for him and appreciative that he's being remembered," says Leinonen's mother, Christine Leinonen, in a video. Guerrero's father, Juan Ramon Guerrero Sr., says the mural represents his son as an honest person who wanted to help others.
Pilato says the mural will also have a stained glass piece above it. Using a mobile app called geogram.co
, visitors will be able leave digital messages at the mural that other people can see or hear.
"Just to be a small part of this was a gift," Pilato says. "When students walk by, they'll remember that these young men were on this campus sitting and reading these books. They were a beautiful couple."
After an emotional remembrance ceremony, the University of Central Florida community gathered outside the Student Union to pay an artistic tribute to their classmates who were killed in the Pulse massacre.