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'They Were So Beautiful': Remembering Those Murdered In Orlando

A woman pauses while writing the names of shooting victims in chalk in a park across from the iconic New York City gay and lesbian bar, The Stonewall Inn, on Monday in New York City.
Spencer Platt
Getty Images
A woman pauses while writing the names of shooting victims in chalk in a park across from the iconic New York City gay and lesbian bar, The Stonewall Inn, on Monday in New York City.

This story was originally published June 13, 2016.

On Sunday morning, a gunman at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Fla., perpetrated the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. He killed 49 people and injured more than 50.

The city of Orlando has released the names of the identified victims, after notifying their next of kin.

"Our City is working tirelessly to get as much information out to the families so they can begin the grieving process," reads the city's statement. "Please keep the following individuals in your thoughts and prayers."

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34, Sarasota, Fla.

According to multiple social media profiles, Sotomayor worked as the national brand manager for Al and Chuck Travel, which describes itself as "part of America's largest gay owned travel company."

In an interview with The Associated Press, David Sotomayor, who identified himself as Sotomayor's cousin, said Edward was a "caring, energetic man."

Christina Copelli, who lives in Vienna, was on three cruises with Sotomayor.

"He was a lovely, kind guy who touched everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him," she told NPR. "I can't believe he's gone."

Stanley Almodovar III, 23, Clermont, Fla.

Almodovar worked as a pharmacy technician, according to his Facebook profile.

"He made me feel like it was perfectly fine being who I was," Almodovar's friend Haze Ramirez told The Two-Way. She says they met at Pulse and "clicked instantly."

"You would know when Stanley entered a room," she said. "He can turn my mood by a conversation."

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22

Guerrero, who had recently begun attending the University of Central Florida, had only recently come out to his family as gay, according to The Associated Press. In a conversation with the news service, his cousin Robert Guerrero said he opened up to his family just before the start of the year.

"He was always this amazing person [and] he was like a big brother to me," Robert Guerrero told the AP. "He was never the type to go out to parties, would rather stay home and care for his niece and nephew."

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36, Orlando, Fla.

Ortiz-Rivera was the man everyone in his family asked for design advice, his cousin Orlando Gonzalez told The New York Times.

"He was very artistic," Gonzalez told the Times. "He was all about interior design."

The paper reports that the 36-year-old "goofball" — Gonzalez's words — lived in downtown Orlando with his husband.

Luis S. Vielma, 22, Sanford, Fla.

"Luis was by far the best person I knew," his friend Will Randle told the Miami Herald. "He inherently made us all better people by simply existing around us. Part of him will always live on in every good decision I make."

According to his Facebook page, Vielma worked at Universal Studios in Orlando, including on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling mourned him on Twitter.

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22

Peter Ommy Gonzalez-Cruz went by "Ommy," his aunt told The Associated Press.

"Peter makes a difference everywhere he goes. He was a happy person," Sonia Cruz told the paper. "If Peter is not at the party, no one wants to go."

Gonzelez-Cruz went to Pulse with his best friend, Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, she said.

Menendez also died in the attack.

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20

Omar Capo was a passionate dancer, according to remembrances being left for him online.

"May the only time you rest," Tamandra Diaz wrote, be after you "make some kick ass choreo up in paradise."

His friend Julius Ortiz was with him at Pulse, but left shortly before the shooting. Ortiz told NPR's Ari Shapiro that after the shooting began, he sent Capo text after text after text, trying to reach him.

He also remembered Capo helping him out when he was in need.

"When I was in a very hard situation — because with my dad, I was staying with him and he kicked me out — he actually took me in for a little," Ortiz said.

Kimberly Morris, 37

Kimberly "KJ" Morris was a bouncer at Pulse.

She moved to Orlando this spring, from Hawaii, in order to help her mother and grandmother, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Before that, she played basketball at Post University in Connecticut and worked as a drag king and bouncer at a gay club in Massachusetts, NBC Connecticut reports.

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30

Eddie Justice was an accountant, living in downtown Orlando, who loved to eat and work out, The Associated Press reports. He woke his mother up shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday, with a text message:

"Mommy I love you." Then: "In club they shooting."

Mina Justice and her son exchanged messages for nearly an hour, the AP reports. Eddie Justice was trapped in a bathroom at Pulse as the hostage situation began. He asked his mother to call the police, telling her a man was shooting, lots of people were wounded.

"He has us," he told her. "He's in the bathroom with us."

"He's a terror."

His death was announced Monday.

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29

Burt was a financial aid officer at Keiser University in Jacksonville, the Florida Times-Union reports. "He always had a smile on his face and was a very nice guy. He definitely leaves an impression and had a big personality, and he is missed," campus President Lisamarie Winslow told the newspaper.

Burt was a member of the Jacksonville Jaycees, a young professionals' organization. "Both socially and professionally he was always interested in making positive impact on people's lives and in the community," president Shawn DeVries said in a statement to NPR. "If someone needed anything he'd usually just ask ... where, when and what are the deadlines."

Burt was known for his colorful bowties, reporter Jenna Bourne has tweeted.

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32

A woman who identified herself as Drayton's aunt posted on Facebook that Drayton had been at work when she was shot.

Melody Maia Monet, a nightclub photographer, posted a photo of Drayton (center) taken on Friday, a day before the shooting.

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25

Laureanodisla, who studied at the University of the Sacred Heart in San Juan, Puerto Rico, performed in drag as Alanis Laurell. "It is with deepest sorrow that we report that a member of the Drag community has lost their life due to the shooting at pulse night club in Orlando Florida," states a Facebook post from the community page Drag Around the World. "Alanis Laurell was a[n] amazing performer and a beautiful person inside and out."

Originally from Puerto Rico, Laureanodisla studied education at the university, according to a Facebook tribute page. He moved to Orlando three years ago to "pursue a career as a dancer and choreographer," according to the Orlando Sentinel. He'd gone dancing at Pulse with his roommates on Saturday, and his family grew alarmed when they didn't hear from him after he texted them at 2:07 a.m. ET. "What I have now is a pain beyond repair," wrote cousin Lucas Daniel Acosta D'oleo.

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35

Born in Puerto Rico, Perez had lived in the U.S. since he was a teenager and worked at an Orlando Perfumania store. "One of the customers Perez charmed at the perfume shop was Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, who would become his longtime partner," according to the Orlando Sentinel. Both were killed in the attack at the Pulse nightclub.

Perez "was a man full of life and joy who loved his friends and family above all things," says a GoFundMe page set up by family members to raise money for his funeral.

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50

Originally from Puerto Rico, Velazquez worked at Forever 21 in Orlando and was a professional Jíbaro folk dancer, according to the Orlando Weekly. A friend told the paper that Velazquez was with friends at Pulse, when "he and others were pushed up against the wall by [Omar] Mateen, who started shooting at the group."

"My brother will never die," his sister wrote on Facebook. "He will be in my heart."

Amanda Alvear, 25

A man holds a portrait of Amanda Alvear at a vigil for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, on Monday evening at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, Fla.
Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
A man holds a portrait of Amanda Alvear at a vigil for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, on Monday evening at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, Fla.

Alvear had gone to Pulse with her friend Mercedez Marisol Flores, and was among those who took refuge in a bathroom during the attack. Alvear posted a Snapchat video that documented the first moments of gunfire erupting at the club. Both she and Flores were killed.

Older brother Brian Alvear told the Orlando Sentinel that his sister had spent the first part of the weekend shopping with his young daughters — "She liked to make them look very good." Amanda, who wanted to be a nurse, "wouldn't want anyone to spread hate for her," he told the newspaper. "She'd rather they spread more love, keep friends and family close, and have a good time doing it."

Martin Benitez Torres, 33

Torres, a student at Sistema Universitario Ana G. Méndez in San Juan, Puerto Rico, had gone to Orlando to spend time with family. He posted Facebook videos and photos sharing scenes from his holiday.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that he was among several students from his school who were killed in the Pulse attack. "I can't believe it that my cousin is gone too soon. Going to miss that big smile always happy," wrote Sonia N. Crapps on Facebook.

"I am a good man," Torres wrote on his Facebook profile page, "a fighter who gives everything without expecting anything in return, ready to fly high today."

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37

Wilson-Leon, who grew up in Puerto Rico, had gone to Pulse with his partner, Jean Carlos Mendez Perez. Both were shot and killed at the club.

The two had met a decade ago, when Perez sold Wilson-Leon Cartier perfume at a Perfumania shop, according to the Orlando Sentinel. They fell in love soon thereafter.

A friend in Pennsylvania, Daniel Gmys-Casiano, paid tribute to Wilson-Leon on Facebook as "a wonderful young man full of life, who endured countless days of bullying while growing up, by cruel people calling him all sorts of horrendous homophobic slurs. He was the first person on this earth I came out to, and he always protected and loved his friends. His strength and character was always an inspiration to all of us."

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26

Originally from Queens, N.Y., Flores studied literature at Orlando's Valencia Community College and worked at Target, according to her Facebook memorial page. She'd gone to the Pulse club with her friend Amanda Alvear. Both were killed in the attack.

"I forgive the boy because I cannot take that hate in my life. My life is more important than hate," Flores' father, Cesar Flores, told reporters in Orlando.

His daughter "had so many dreams," Flores said. "We must all come together, we must all be at peace, we must all love each other, because this hatred cannot continue for the rest of our lives."

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35

Xavier E. Serrano was a professional dancer and performed in shows for Disney Live! Matt Molandes, a friend of Serrano's, tells NPR that Serrano helped Molandes accept himself as a gay person. "Coming from a place where I was ashamed to be gay, watching ... performers like Xavier helped me come out of my shell," he says. "Xavier lived in his truth, he was always happy even on days he wasn't."

Serrano leaves behind a young son.

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25

Silva Menendez, originally from Puerto Rico, had moved to Orlando and was working for Speedway convenience stores while he studied health care management at Ana G. Mendez University in Orlando.

Sonia Cruz, the aunt of another victim, Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, told the Associated Press that Silva Menendez was best friends with her nephew and that the two had gone to the Pulse nightclub together on Saturday.

Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31

Partners Simon Carillo and Oscar Aracena had recently returned from a trip to Niagara Falls, the Orlando Sentinel reports, when they headed to Pulse for a night out on Saturday. Both men died in the attack.

According to a friend of both men, Norkis Fernandez-Valdez, the two had just purchased a home together. Another friend, Yamil Caraballo, who says he had known Aracena for three years, tells NPR that he was always happy and willing to help others. "He was a great man and loved the Lord with all his heart," Carabello recalls. "He was amazing."

Ivonne Irizarry, who worked with Carillo at McDonald's, told the Orlando Sentinel he loved to travel and took great pride in the quality of his work. Carillo loved dancing, biking and water skiing, the paper writes.

Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25

Rios was on vacation in Orlando from Brooklyn, N.Y. In 2015, he enrolled at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, studying social work.

A spokesman for the college, Richard Relkin, said in a press release, "Sadly, his dreams were cut short by this senseless act of violence. The St. Francis College community mourns the loss of one of our own and offers prayers to his family and friends."

While he was in school, Rios worked at a restaurant at LaGuardia Airport. A co-worker remembered his sense of humor. "He had so much joy in him and was so funny," Dorys Gonzalez wrote in a remembrance on Facebook. "He was such a good person."

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio singled out Rios Monday night at the Stonewall Inn vigil in Manhattan.

"We lost a good young man from Brooklyn. A caring and loving young man, he was already serving others. He was attending nursing school while working with our senior citizens as a social worker. This is the kind of good human being we lost in Orlando, someone with a life ahead, making this world a better place," said de Blasio.

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30

Miguel Honorato was married with three children. The family lived in the Orlando suburb of Apopka, Fla., and according to Facebook he and his brother, Jose Honorato, worked together at FajitaMex Mexican Catering.

Jose Honorato tells the Orlando Sentinel that his brother had gone to Pulse nightclub with three friends, and that all three of them had made it home safe.

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40

Known to his friends as "Javi", Javier Jorge-Reyes was originally from Puerto Rico. Jose Diaz, a friend of the victim, tells the Orlando Sentinel that Jorge-Reyes was a salesman at a Gucci store at a mall in Orlando, and that his outgoing personality made Jorge-Reyes good at his job. "He was always positive," Diaz tells the Sentinel. "He was very humble. He was a lovely friend."

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19

Josaphat, still in his teens, is the second-youngest identified victim in the Pulse shooting.

"Like many 19-year-olds, Jason Benjamin Josaphat had many interests and was just starting to chart his path in life, according to his family — he was computer savvy, loved to work out and had an interest in photography," the Orlando Sentinel wrote.

The Orlando native had recently graduated from high school and started college classes, Josephat's uncle Christopher Long told the newspaper.

"He was always helpful, always willing to help someone in need," Josephat's aunt Josette Desile said.

Josephat called his mother from the club after the shooting began, and stayed on the line with her as she called 911.

"She said she heard the shots getting closer," Desile said.

Cory James Connell, 21

Connell, a student at Valencia Community College, hoped to become a firefighter, his father James told CNN. Connell was at Pulse with his girlfriend, who was shot in the attack, but survived.

"Cory's a good guy," James Connell told CNN after the attack, before the family had learned of his fate. "He loves everybody."

On Facebook, Cory Connell's brother Ryan called him "the superhero of our family." "God just got the best of angels," he wrote.

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37

Luis Daniel Conde, 39

Partners Conde and Velazquez were together at Pulse when they were shot.

"Se fueron juntos como la pareja que son," Facebook user Pipo Pere wrote — meaning "they left together like the couple that they are."

Another Facebook user, Tulio Lopez, recalled them as "two extraordinary human beings."

Conde and Velazquez owned a salon and spa together, the Tampa Bay Times reports, and had been business partners for a decade.

"They were both exceptional people," Conde's sister Lynette Conde told the paper. "They were always helping each other."

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24

Jonathan Camuy worked on the show La Voz Kids, produced in Orlando for Telemundo, NBC Miami reports.

He was a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, according to president Mekahlo Medina. He'd joined the journalism association as a student in Puerto Rico before moving to Florida.

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32

Christine Leinonen drove to Pulse at 4 a.m., after she heard there was a shooting, The Associated Press reports. Her son, Christopher Andrew Leinonen, had been at the club — and after the attack, his friends had posted online that they didn't know where he was.

She stood on the street, sobbing, begging for word of her son.

"These are nonsensical killings of our children," she said. "They're killing our babies!"

Christine's emotional appeal for news of her son aired on TVs around the nation. She said she was proud of Christopher, she told ABC News, saying he won a humanitarian award for founding the gay-straight alliance at his high school. She begged for the world to "try to get rid of the hatred and the violence, please!"

On Monday the confirmation came: Leinonen died in the shooting.

Nightclub photographer Melody Maia Monet shared a photo on Instagram of Leinonen and his boyfriend, Juan Ramon Guerrero, who also died in the attack. She took the photo at a different nightclub on Friday, just one day before the shooting.

"I am haunted that I may have taken the last photo of them together," she wrote. "They were so beautiful."

Frank Hernandez, 27

His family called him Frankie. Frank Hernandez was at Pulse nightclub in Orlando with his boyfriend when the shooting began. According to the Miami Herald, by the time Hernandez's teenage sister, Julissa Leal, made the 12-hour drive to Orlando from their childhood home in Louisiana, Hernandez was dead.

"I don't want to say it, I don't even want to believe it," Leal writes on Facebook. "I don't understand why he had to be one of the many victims who didn't make it. Why did it have to be him of all people. They took my big brother away from me, they took him away from us."

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33

Tomlinson was a lead singer in a cover band called Frequency. Earlier Sunday night, the Orlando Sentinel reports, he was singing at another nightclub, the Blue Martini.

He was "a vibrant and charismatic lead vocalist," the paper writes.

"Orlando will miss his voice," friend Jai Saint told People. "The world will miss his voice."

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49

McCool, a mother of 11 and grandmother of six, loved dancing the salsa and had gone to Pulse with her son Isaiah Henderson, 21. A Brooklyn native, McCool had moved to Orlando from California, according to the New York Daily News. "A cancer survivor. A stellar mother. A proud and fierce advocate for her LGBT family... [She] tore up the dance floor when salsa or anything was playing," actor Wilson Cruz, a relative, wrote on Facebook.

McCool had become a beloved figure at the Pulse nightclub. "She's like the mom of Pulse," club-goer Carlos Rosario told a local news program. "She supported us and was there with us the whole time."

At 12:04 a.m. Sunday morning, McCool posted a video from Pulse on Facebook – music blaring, colored lights flashing, couples dancing. Two hours later, she was still dancing when Omar Mateen began shooting.

"Brenda saw him point the gun," sister-in-law Ada Pressley told the Daily News. "She said, 'Get down,' to Isaiah and she got in front of him." Two bullets struck McCool, and her son escaped with his life.

"She was shot dead," Pressley told the paper. "That's how much she loved her kids. If it weren't for her, he'd have been shot."

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28

Angel Candelario-Padro had been a Zumba instructor in Chicago until a few months ago, when he moved to Orlando. According to his employer, he was scheduled to start a new job in his new city on June 20th, working as an ophthalmic technician at the Florida Retina Institute.

Candelario-Padro was originally from Puerto Rico. His aunt, Leticia Padro, tells Univision that her nephew was "very humble, respectful, [and] studious." She says the family is making arrangements to transport his body back to Guanica, Puerto Rico for burial.

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25

He went by Drake.

Ortiz was an actor, a dancer, and a proud Dominican, who was raised in the US and lived in Puerto Rico. He had studied law, according to his Facebook profile, at Universidad del Este in Carolina, Puerto Rico. After his death was confirmed on Monday, messages poured in over social media. "God, my brother," wrote one friend, Gregory Fabian, on Facebook. "This isn't fair."

Akyra Monet Murray, 18

Akyra Murray graduated with honors from West Catholic Preparatory High School in Philadelphia last week. Murray and her family were on vacation in Orlando to celebrate her graduation and visit Murray's brother. "Akyra was a respectful and self-determined young woman who served as a natural leader to her teammate," her basketball coach, Beulah Osueke, writes in a statement on the school's website. "Losing Akyra is heartbreaking."

Akyra Murray's mother, Natalie Murray, tells NPR that Akyra called her parents just after 2 a.m. on Sunday. "She called to tell us she had been shot, and at this point she's frantic. She's screaming, she's crying, she's [saying] 'Mommy please help me, I'm bleeding so bad. Please call the cops. Please help me, Mommy, please.'"

18-year-old Murray died of a gunshot wound to the arm, which severed a major artery. Murray had planned to attend Mercyhurst North East, part of Mercyhurst University in Erie, P.A., on a full basketball scholarship.

Akyra Murray was 18, and graduated from high school the week before the shooting.
/ Courtesy of Natalie Murray
Courtesy of Natalie Murray
Akyra Murray was 18, and graduated from high school the week before the shooting.

Paul Terrell Henry, 41

Henry, a Chicago native, loved to dance and was great at pool, his boyfriend tells the Orlando Sentinel.

Henry had "such a loving spirit," Francisco Hernandez told the paper. "He wanted the best for me, to succeed and to help me make something of myself. I am definitely going to do that for him."

Facebook user Stephanie Gross, who said she used to work with Henry, posted in a remembrance that he was encouraging and "always smiling."

"I remember him for his infectious boisterous personality, pink Polo shirt, and huge belt buckles," she wrote.

Henry had two children, and his daughter had recently graduated from high school, The Orlando Sentinel wrote.

Antonio Davon Brown, 29

Brown was a captain in the Army Reserves. The Army Times reports he was in the ROTC program at Florida A&M University, where he earned a degree in criminal justice in 2008.

Brown was deployed to Kuwait from April 2010 to March 2011, the Orlando Sentinel reports, citing U.S. Army Media Relations.

Jane Brookshire worked for the 1st Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade at Fort Riley while Brown was serving there, before he left active duty and joined the Reserves.

Antonio "Tony" Brown was a captain in the U.S. Army, serving in the Army Reserve at the time of his death.
/ Courtesy of Jane Brookshire
Courtesy of Jane Brookshire
Antonio "Tony" Brown was a captain in the U.S. Army, serving in the Army Reserve at the time of his death.

"He was the one person who used to come to my office every day and make sure that I was having a good day," she tells NPR. "We would just sit there and talk and laugh," she said.

"He was an amazing officer, friend and an absolute joy to be around," she wrote.

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24

Sanfeliz lived in Tampa and worked as a personal banker at JP Morgan Chase, the Tampa Bay Times reports. A high school teacher of his told the Times Sanfeliz was "the most positive guy I've ever known."

His family immigrated from Cuba in the '60s and were very close-knit, the paper writes.

"My little brother and the most important person in my life has passed away," Junior SanFeliz posted on Facebook. "He was so strong, and was my rock through everything we ever went through. He was the light of my family."

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21

Barrios Martinez had immigrated from Cuba to Florida in 2014, according to Cuba-centric news site Café Fuerte.

His cousin, journalist Alvaro Alvarez, told Café Fuerte in Spanish that the far-flung family was living in "rage and anguish." Alvarez lives in Chile, while Barrios Martinez's father lives in Orlando and his mother lives in Cuba.

Alvarez denounced the attack on the club and defended the right of his cousin and others at the club to "live without apology."

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33

An employee since 2011 of Florida's OneBlood blood donation center, Ayala "had recently been promoted to supervisor of a team coordinating platelet products for patients," according to People magazine. OneBlood saw many donors in the wake of the attack on Orlando's Pulse nightclub.

"I can tell you that Rodolfo Ayala was a dedicated person who took pride in the fact that every day he had a chance to help save lives," OneBlood supervisor Thomas Webster wrote on Facebook.

Originally from San German, Puerto Rico, Ayala helped support relatives back home. "He was a lab technician who moved to Orlando from Puerto Rico in pursuit of happiness," wrote Yecenia Caban Jimenez, who knew him in high school.

Coworkers remember Ayala as a loving and compassionate person, an avid dancer and a great fan of Ricky Martin. "He was very proud of being a gay man in the community," Adam Colon told People. "No one could tell him different."

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25

Tevin Crosby, originally from Statesville, N.C., owned a marketing firm, Total Entrepreneurs Concepts. He graduated from West Iredell High School in Statesville, and studied business at Strayer University South in Charlotte, N.C. His high school English teacher, Jacqueline Scott, tells the Charlotte Observer that, when he graduated, the staff voted Crosby one of its "unsung heroes," for his perseverance. "I want people to know the laughter and the joy he spread," she says.

Crosby's brother, Chavis, tells the Orlando Sentinel that Tevin was a great businessman. "He was very ambitious," Chavis says. "Whatever goal he had in mind, he worked hard."

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24

Solivan, who was known as Mary, is survived by her husband and two young boys. She went to Pulse Saturday night with a group including brother-in-law William Sabad Borges, who was shot twice and survived, and friend Jonathan Camuy, who did not. "We went there for a night of fun and instead she paid with her life," sister Natalia Canlan wrote on a GoFundMe page set up for funeral expenses. "Her smile lit up the room and her laughter brought a smile to your heart!"

Borges wrote on Facebook that Camuy had died "like a hero" while trying to protect Solivan. "Jonathan's body was found protecting my sister-in-law," he wrote.

Borges told CNN that Solivan had favored going to Pulse: "Let's go to a gay club," she told him, "because they're killing at the other clubs."

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32

Paniagua was humble, cheerful and religious, friends and family told The Orlando Sentinel — and he loved to dance.

"He was loyal. He was always trying to do stuff to make you feel better," said his friend Lorena Barragan, who met him in church.

Paniagua was originally from Veracruz, the Mexican newspaper El Universal reports.

Before news of Paniagua's death had been announced, his cousin Jose Luis Paniagua spoke to Newsday as he waited for word to send to the rest of the family in Florida and in Mexico.

He said they'd never expected something like his — not in America.

"We came here for a better life," he told Newsday. "We came because here in the United States there are many opportunities ... and because we were fleeing, because in our country there was a lot of crime, violence and death ... and we expect it should be more peaceful here."

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25

Juan Chavez Martinez was remembered by a hotel housekeeper he supervised as "kind and loving," the Orlando Sentinel reports.

"There was nobody else like him," Jose Crisantos told the paper.

Martinez, who was from the central Mexican state of Hidalgo, was the youngest of six children, Mexican newspaper El Universal reports.

"He was the best brother," his sister Fidela told El Universal in Spanish. "He was always cheerful, and he was the one who supported my parents."

"My heart is still breaking," friend Tomas Martinez told the Orlando Sentinel. "He had a lot of friends."

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31

His friends and coworkers knew Jerry Wright as a quiet, kind, and hardworking part of the "Disney Family," as many employees at Walt Disney World call the team there. Wright worked in the Emporium Shop at the Orlando theme park.

A former coworker, Scott Dickison, tells the Orlando Sentinel that Wright that, "Jerry was a great guy to work with. He was quiet but really wonderful with all the guests. He always had a smile on his face."

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25

Roy Fernandez loved to sing and loved to dance. He described himself on Instagram as a dancer, stylist, and fashion enthusiast, and he frequently shared photos and videos featuring his own designs and choreography.

Fernandez is originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico. A friend and manager at the apartment complex in Orlando where Fernandez worked as a leasing agent, Yolanda Quinones-Perez, tells the Orlando Sentinel that he filled the office with music. "He sang Adele in the office until we couldn't take it anymore. It just feels very quiet now."

Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27

"Just like a big teddy bear," is how Orlando resident Ivonne Irizarry described her friend to the Orlando Sentinel. "Whatever you needed, you could count on him." Originally from Puerto Rico, Nieves Rodriguez loved the beach and cars. He attended Orlando's Oak Ridge High and was general manager of a check-cashing service, according to the paper. "He wanted to be the best at what he did, and he would work very hard to achieve that," Irizarry said.

"Love by many Left behind with a broken heart his Mom and Sister and a family," says a GoFundMe page set up to help cover funeral expenses. "WE LOVE YOU JEAN. Fly high baby."

Editor's note: We've updated the text to reflect that the Orlando attack represents the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, rather than in all of U.S. history. You can read more about our thinking here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
Hannah Bloch is lead digital editor on NPR's international desk, overseeing the work of NPR correspondents and freelance journalists around the world.
Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.
Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.
Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.