Effects Of Pulse Nightclub Shooting Linger In Orlando
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It has been six months since the Pulse nightclub shooting. And as the holidays approach, 49 families will celebrate without a loved one. So many lives were changed on that day. So was the city of Orlando itself. Here's Catherine Welch from member station WMFE.
CATHERINE WELCH, BYLINE: For Ramone Rivera, the shootings may have happened a while ago, but he remembers everything. It was just another Latin Night at Pulse, and he was DJing out on the patio. The club was winding down in the early hours of June 12 when a gunman entered the building and opened fire. As people started running, someone hid with Ramone behind his DJ booth.
RAMONE RIVERA: There was a pause. And at that point is when the person that was under my booth, I told him, come on, let's go, let's go, let's go.
WELCH: He made it out safely, but some of his friends didn't. For weeks afterwards, he didn't leave his house. And for a long time, Rivera couldn't sleep. When he did, there were nightmares. He still has some trouble sleeping. The shooting at the gay nightclub may have happened six months ago, but the pain still lingers. Terry DeCarlo has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and remains in counseling. DeCarlo heads an organization that's a focal point for the LGBT community. He was at the hospital that morning, helping families and survivors.
TERRY DECARLO: To see the moms, to see the families running down the street screaming their child's name, trying to find out where their child is, it's just - it's something I would never wish on anybody.
WELCH: Healing in the community has been slow, he says. It was months before people could head back to the clubs, and now they're confronted with metal detectors. Before the shooting, when he would travel out of state, people used to ask him about Disney, Epcot and SeaWorld. Now, the questions are about Pulse, and he's greeted differently around town, too.
DECARLO: In Orlando, you don't shake hands anymore; you hug. You put your hand out to somebody to shake their hand, and they say, oh, no, we hug.
WELCH: Hugs help, but healing takes time, says Elaine Miller-Karas, who runs the Trauma Resource Institute.
ELAINE MILLER-KARAS: Actually, sometimes people start having some really difficult symptoms right about now. It's kind of like there's a shock that wears off.
WELCH: The institute worked with San Bernardino County after the mass shooting in California and will help Orlando residents with lingering symptoms of depression and PTSD. Healing, for many, includes a visit to the dark-gray Pulse nightclub, which has been closed since the shooting. It sits behind a fence, covered in brightly painted banners that are covered in handwritten messages. There are also strings of beads and lots of candles and photos and flowers. There's hardly a moment when someone isn't there. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer visits every week.
BUDDY DYER: It's hard, especially when you come back out to Pulse, to reimagine the tragedy happening.
WELCH: Dyer is still trying to understand what happened. He knows the shooting has made Orlando a more compassionate city.
DYER: And I think people aren't afraid to recognize people for who they are. I think there is a lot more acceptance that people can live a different lifestyle than what you live, and that's OK.
WELCH: Dyer wanted the city to buy the property and turn it into a memorial, but the club's owner just couldn't sell it. She wants to honor those who died, but doesn't know how yet. For NPR News, I'm Catherine Welch in Orlando.
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