WATCH: Orlando Pulse Survivors’ Bittersweet And Heartbreaking Stories

Two survivors of the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub shared their stories during a press conference at Florida Hospital Orlando Tuesday afternoon. WFTV 9 was on hand when Pulse survivors, Patience Carter and Angel Santiago Jr., gave their accounts as Pulse survivors.

Both expressed horror at what unfolded around 2 a.m. EST.

Carter Shares Her Account Of Surviving The Massacre

Carter, 20, was on vacation with her best friend and bestie’s family. They young women decided to hit Pulse for a fun night out. Carter lost that best friend, as she was fatally shot. When she heard gunshots, Carter assumed they were part of the club’s last call for alcohol. She thought perhaps the sound came from BB gun pellets being released as sound effects from the deejay booth.

That changed in an instant as she and others quickly realized the gunshots were real, and began huddling together in a bathroom stall.

Carter recalled the shooter making his way into the bathroom where she and others feared for their lives. She reports that the shooter asked specifically if there were any black people in the bathroom stating,

I don’t have a problem with black people, this is about my country. You guys have suffered enough.”

Santiago Was Shot – Dragged Himself Out Of The Club

Santiago shared his story from his hospital bed telling Fox 35 Orlando that he was, “struck by bullets” on his left foot and right knee. He was also grazed by a third bullet, and says he is, “lucky to be alive.” Santiago noted he’d arrived at Pulse around 12:30 a.m., and recalled the shooting starting right around the last call for alcohol.

Santiago says he hid in a ballroom stall with between 15 and 20 other club patrons, as the shots came closer to their hiding spot. He eventually dragged himself towards police, and to safety.

Shooter Omar Mateen Was Killed By Police

Among the dead is shooter, Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Florida. CNN reports Mateen pledged ISIS allegiance. Orlando police rolled into the nightclub in armored tanks, fatally shooting Mateen, who killed 49 party goers, plus one Army officer, and wounded 53 others.

Carter Pens Poem To Begin Healing Process

As a Queer Black Woman, the tragedy at Pulse hits close to home. I am not naive to the fact that hate pushes some people to do horrific things.

As I listened to Carter read the poem she penned while laying in a hospital bed, she expressed feelings of “survivor’s guilt.” Her words pierced my heart as she spoke about “wanting her soul to leave her body,” in reaction to watching people die all around her, including her best friend.

Homophobia Has To Die To Stop This Type Of Tragedy From Recurring

I caught my breath trying to take it all in. Hatred of gays becomes blatantly clear each June as people celebrate Gay Pride.

My timeline is full of empathy because I have a lot of LGBTAI-identifying friends in my life. The reality is I also have a lot of friends who are LGBTIA allies who offer support and participate in events.

What happened in Orlando can happen anywhere and at any time. It depends on how much hate a person carries in their heart and how deep their homophobia runs.

Prayers For Pulse Survivors And Families Who Lost Loved Ones

As I try to wrap my head around the words of Carter and Santiago, my heart bleeds a rainbow of feelings and emotions over the tragic loss of life. We’re in America in the 21st century, and there is absolutely no certainty, or guarantee, that this won’t happen again.

I send out prayers and condolences to those who lost loved ones, and hope that we can all move forward in love. If not love, then at least with some type of understanding that people have a right to dance away some of the hate that is liberally projected onto LGBTAI people.

Watch the survivors talk about their ordeal here:


Featured Image: Screenshot Of Fox 10 Phoenix And Tim Evanson Via Flickr/CC By SA-2.0.

C. Imani Williams is a human rights and social justice activist. She writes to empower and give voice to those silenced through systematic oppression. Her work has appeared in Between the Lines, Michigan Citizen, Tucson Weekly, Harlem Times, Dope Magazine and various news and popular culture blogs. Follow the unapologetically black political culture critique @ and