Aftermath Of Orlando Shooting Inspires Friend Of Victims To Forge New Path NPR's Ari Shapiro checks back in with Eddie Meltzer, who helped translate for victims' families after the mass shooting — the worst in U.S. history — at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
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Aftermath Of Orlando Shooting Inspires Friend Of Victims To Forge New Path

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Aftermath Of Orlando Shooting Inspires Friend Of Victims To Forge New Path

Aftermath Of Orlando Shooting Inspires Friend Of Victims To Forge New Path

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This week, Orlando Regional Medical Center released its last patient who was injured in the attack on the gay nightclub Pulse. Back in June, a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53, making it the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

When I was in Orlando reporting on the massacre, I met Eddie Meltzer. He left the club just before the gunfire started. Five of his friends were killed, and one was injured. He spent the next week interpreting for victims' families from Spanish to English. When I met him, he told me he wasn't afraid.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

EDDIE MELTZER: You can't kill me. I'm an idea. I'm timeless.

SHAPIRO: Eddie had just finished up classes to become a nurse. Today we checked back in with him, and he told me his experiences over the last three months changed his life in ways he never expected.

MELTZER: I think after all this, I have decided that I want to help people in a different way.

SHAPIRO: One of those experiences came after he received a letter from a Muslim man. The man wrote that he initially agreed with what the Pulse shooter did. Then he heard Eddie on the radio and wanted to meet him in person.

MELTZER: Something hit him, and he realized that he was full of hatred, and he didn't want that. So we met. I was very nervous. I was very worried that this was a setup. And this man said, we're not going to see each other eye to eye, you know? I'm not - I still don't agree with your lifestyle, but I have learned through you that I can respect it, and I can learn not to be consumed by hate.

And at the end he said to me something that was interesting. He said that he knows that the people that have hate - they will never win because they will always be consumed by their own hate, and it will destruct them. And that's why good will always triumph. And that's the side that he wants to be on.

SHAPIRO: So now that you've had this awakening in a way and you've decided to take a different path, what do you expect you will actually do?

MELTZER: Well, I'm going to be offering people grieving counseling, and I'm going to help people that want to literally just talk to me, talk to me. And that's it. You know, I'm a gay man. I don't have any kids. The only person I take care of myself and my cat. And I think that that is my calling, you know, is to help people.

SHAPIRO: When we spoke in June, one of your friends was in the hospital from the shooting. And you told me that when he got out, you were going to go get martinis (laughter).

MELTZER: Yes.

SHAPIRO: Said the last patient was released this week from the hospital. I understand your friend was released some time ago.

MELTZER: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: Did you ever get those martinis?

MELTZER: We did. We actually went out to a club in Orlando. And we were going to get martinis, but at that point, he was just crazy enough already, so we just got what got vodka cranberries. But we got there, and he's showing me his bullet wounds. And it was very - I mean it was - I was drunk, and I was happy and everything. But it really hit me to see that. And I can tell that the mood was getting dark, so I try to lighten up. And I decided that - we started talking about Drew (ph), my friend Drew.

SHAPIRO: Who was killed in the shooting.

MELTZER: Who was killed, yeah. And I said, you know, we all know that if he would be drinking shots (laughter), so let's all get shots, you know? And we got - for the group, we got shots, and we got an extra shot for Drew. And that was how I guess we gave that closer to that martini I guess (laughter).

SHAPIRO: Eddie Meltzer, it's really great to talk to you again. Thank you so much.

MELTZER: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: That's Eddie Meltzer, who helped interpret for victims' families after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. This week the hospital there announced it had released its last patient from the attack.

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