Parents of possible victims in the Orlando shooting share their stories
The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history took place early Sunday morning when a gunman opened fire at Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando. At least 49 innocent people were killed and another 53 were injured, leaving hundreds waiting to know if their loved ones are okay. Mina Justice and Christine Leinonen are both moms whose sons were inside Pulse when shots rang out, and the heartbreaking stories they’ve shared are a nightmare no parent should have to endure.
Mina Justice’s son, Eddie, was among hostages trapped in a bathroom at Pulse, and he was tragically confirmed dead early this morning. Eddie sent his mom a string of text messages during the attack, which she shared on WFTV. “Mommy I love you,” he wrote. “In club they shooting. Trapp in bathroom. Please call police. [sic]”
The New York Post reports Eddie hid in the women’s bathroom and begged his mom for help.
Call them mommy now
I’m tell I’m bathroom [sic]
I’m gonna die
Justice told WFTV she called police and even briefly spoke to her son on the phone to let him know help was coming. The text messages are the last exchange she shared with him. He was only 30 years old.
Christine Leinonen’s son, Christopher, was also in the club that night. His boyfriend, Juan Ramon Guerrerro, has been confirmed dead, but this morning on Today Leinonen said there’s still no word on Christopher’s whereabouts or condition.
In a gut-wrenching interview, Leinonen told ABC News she drove to the club after she woke up in the middle of the night and learned there’d been a shooting. Since then, she’s spent countless painful hours waiting for updates.
“They said there’s a lot of dead bodies in the club and that it’s a crime scene … so it could be hours and hours before we find out,” she explained through tears. “The hospital said there are some bodies at the hospital that came in and they died and they’re not identifiable yet either.”
Leinonen said the last words she spoke to her son were “I love you,” and she got emotional as she asked — like all of us — why these horrific tragedies keep happening. “I beg all of you, please,” she said. “Please let’s all just get along. We’re on this Earth for such a short time. Let’s try to get rid of the hatred and the violence. Please.”
The city of Orlando is keeping a public list of victim’s names as they’re identified, and many friends and family members are coming forward to share stories and memories of the people they’ve lost. These are the faces of this tragedy. It’s not only the people whose lives were sadly and unfairly cut short or those who were horrifically injured. It’s also their parents and siblings, their uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents; it’s their lovers and friends, their children, their coworkers — the grief ripples out endlessly, forever. It affects hundreds and even thousands of people.
In my social media feeds, people are arguing about the type of gun used, who is really responsible, and whether change is even possible. But look at these innocent souls calling their moms in their final moments. Look at these moms endlessly searching and hoping and waiting and praying. Change must be possible. This violence must be stopped. What Justice, Leinonen, and so many others are facing is a tragedy no one else should ever have to endure.
Update: At 2:40 p.m., Christopher Leinonen was added to the City of Orlando’s list of those confirmed deceased. You can view the full list here. Our hearts go out to the loved ones of all the victims of this tragedy.