Monday marks the first anniversary of Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub Massacre. The attack — widely considered to be the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history — saw Omar Mateen terrorize the club with an assault-style rifle, killing 49 people and injuring at least 50 more. Many heroes emerged on that terrible night and in its aftermath. One of them, Officer Omar Delgado made an emotional return (with Dear World, which interviewed several subjects, some of whom we will feature below) to the scene in the above video.
Delgado serves with the Eatonville Police Department, an Orlando suburb. He described what he witnessed — while he saved the life of Angel Colon and wished he could do more — within the bloody chaos. He’s experienced nightmares and PTSD following the mass shooting and feels haunted by the sound of victims’ phones that kept ringing as the rampage continued. He never wanted to return to the club, but he was inspired by a Boston marathon survivor who lost both legs and was able to cross the finish line, years later.
While meeting this goal of revisiting what Delgado calls “a dark place” for him, he was brought to tears and felt “at the tipping point of just falling to my knees.” In his interview at the Dear World site, Delgago detailed what it was like to try and revisit the scene a month after the tragedy. His department did everything they could to help, even hooking him up with a simulation program similar to what veterans use after war-zone experiences, but one year later, he’s still struggling to reclaim his old self.
Angel Colon, the club goer rescued by Delgado, also experiences panic attacks that have continued since he left the hospital (that was “my refuge”) where he recovered for three weeks following the attack. He won’t ever forget that night, but he realizes that forgiveness was a necessary step:
When you think of forgiveness, there is a specific thing that you have to forgive. There’s a specific person you have to forgive. So yes, it was in my head, this guy who did this.
I forgive you.
If I regret forgiving, that anger is going to build up inside and that’s just bad.
I just keep repeating this in my head:
Love, hope, positivity.
You’ll be fine.
Mina Justice lost her son, Eddie, during the massacre. He managed to text and call her as Matteen walked through the building, shooting people. Mina described her haunting last interactions with Eddie and how she frantically drove to the club and desperately searched for her son:
2:06 a.m., I got a text.
“I love you Mom.”
And I was like, what is this boy doing?
Then, the phone rang. It was him.
“Call the police.”
So I’m on my work phone calling the dispatcher.
“Mom, tell them to hurry up, I’m in the bathroom. He’s coming.”
I feel stupid, I really do, because I said, “Get off the phone so he won’t hear you. Text me.”
So he got off the phone.