June 11, 2022

27 Pulse survivors, family members and first responders share their stories

The Dear World project is an interactive portrait series that combines storytelling with written messages on skin. Organizers of the project came down to Orlando to document stories of those affected by the mass shooting that killed 49 people at the gay nightclub Pulse on June 12, 2016. The result: Dear World Orlando, a photo series that captures survivors of that night, families of the 49 victims and first responders as they reflect on their healing and recovery process.

"Dear World honors the people who passed away, saved lives, comforted the injured and buried loved ones a year ago," says Robert X. Fogarty, Dear World founder, in a statement. "I cherish the opportunity to listen and share these deeply personal stories from people who are bound by a nightmare that nobody should ever have to endure."

The portraits are accompanied by full-length stories that you can read at Dear World Orlando.

June 9, 2017
Photos by Dear World / Daymon Gardner https://dearworld.org/orlando
Scroll down to view images

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

At a time when local-based reporting is critical, support from our readers is essential to our future. Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month

"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. 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 said hello, but I didn't get a chance to say goodbye. That's what gets me." – Orlando Torres, survivor of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting.
"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. 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 said hello, but I didn't get a chance to say goodbye. That's what gets me." – Orlando Torres, survivor of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting.
"That night at Pulse, he was missing. We were celebrating our birthdays together. I didn't know where he was. When I got outside of that I ran like crazy and I forgot I was with Chris. I went back. I didn't care. I went back and I found him in the middle of the road, screaming. We hugged each other like we never hugged before." – Ramses Tinoco, survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting, friend of Chris Brodman.
"That night at Pulse, he was missing. We were celebrating our birthdays together. I didn't know where he was. When I got outside of that I ran like crazy and I forgot I was with Chris. I went back. I didn't care. I went back and I found him in the middle of the road, screaming. We hugged each other like we never hugged before." – Ramses Tinoco, survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting, friend of Chris Brodman.
"I was closing out my checks and about to collect my tips. It was 2:00 a.m. I was talking to my friend and I remember it sounding like a broken speaker. It was crazy how loud everything was. Once we realized it was gunshots, we hit the floor and just prayed that it would stop." – Rodney Sumter, Pulse bartender and survivor of the Orlando shooting.
"I was closing out my checks and about to collect my tips. It was 2:00 a.m. I was talking to my friend and I remember it sounding like a broken speaker. It was crazy how loud everything was. Once we realized it was gunshots, we hit the floor and just prayed that it would stop." – Rodney Sumter, Pulse bartender and survivor of the Orlando shooting.
"On the day of my wedding my son was so happy. He did my hair and makeup. It was his plan to make me look 'spectacular' on my wedding day." – Magda Soto, mother of Luis Conde, who died in the Pulse nightclub shooting.
"On the day of my wedding my son was so happy. He did my hair and makeup. It was his plan to make me look 'spectacular' on my wedding day." – Magda Soto, mother of Luis Conde, who died in the Pulse nightclub shooting.
"Before Pulse, some people that knew I was gay, but it was still a sensitive topic for me. I was very protective of myself. There was always the fear of being treated differently. Not only did I have nowhere to hide that night but now in general in my life, this very personal, sensitive subject, it’s out there for everyone to know. That’s why that just kept ringing in my head. Nowhere left to hide. I could no longer hide who I am." – Angel Santiago, survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
"Before Pulse, some people that knew I was gay, but it was still a sensitive topic for me. I was very protective of myself. There was always the fear of being treated differently. Not only did I have nowhere to hide that night but now in general in my life, this very personal, sensitive subject, it’s out there for everyone to know. That’s why that just kept ringing in my head. Nowhere left to hide. I could no longer hide who I am." – Angel Santiago, survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Luis Roldan, survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting
Luis Roldan, survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting
"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. That's one of the challenges I've been facing, that he's not here because when you go from seeing somebody every day, sharing the same bathroom, waking up every morning, eating with him, it's weird now because now you go to the house and it's quiet. I'm never home." – Valeria Monroig, sister of Jean Carlos Nieves Rodriguez, victim of the Pulse shooting.
"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. That's one of the challenges I've been facing, that he's not here because when you go from seeing somebody every day, sharing the same bathroom, waking up every morning, eating with him, it's weird now because now you go to the house and it's quiet. I'm never home." – Valeria Monroig, sister of Jean Carlos Nieves Rodriguez, victim of the Pulse shooting.
Dimarie Rodriguez, mother of Jean Carlos Nieves Rodriguez, victim of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Dimarie Rodriguez, mother of Jean Carlos Nieves Rodriguez, victim of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
"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." – Ray Rivera, DJ at Pulse who was playing the night of the shooting.
"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." – Ray Rivera, DJ at Pulse who was playing the night of the shooting.
"She had a dress on. That night she was joking with us and she said, 'I’m going to change my clothes. I’ve got a bad feeling something might happen.' Me and my brother went out so she said, 'I love you guys so much.'" – Robert Pressley, son of Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, a victim of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
"She had a dress on. That night she was joking with us and she said, 'I’m going to change my clothes. I’ve got a bad feeling something might happen.' Me and my brother went out so she said, 'I love you guys so much.'" – Robert Pressley, son of Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, a victim of the Pulse nightclub shooting.