by Herb Sosa

On June 12, 2016, a 29-year-old security guard, killed 49 people
and wounded 53 others in a terrorist attack—also considered a
hate crime—inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida,
United States. He was shot and killed by Orlando Police
Department (OPD) officers after a three-hour standoff. Pulse was
hosting Latin Night and most of the victims were Latino. It was the
deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter, the deadliest incident
of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history, and the deadliest
terrorist attack in the U.S. since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Orlando resident Angel Torres was enjoying his Saturday night at
Pulse, like he did often, with his friend Chris Littlestar and others.

Just hours later, his and hundreds of others lives would change
forever. Chris was shot 5 times and is currently going through a
series of operations and rehabilitation. No one affected will ever
be the same.

I had the opportunity to chat with Angel, and this is how it went:

-        Tell me about your background… Where were you born,
family, city, etc.
I was born in Brooklyn New York. Im the middle child of 5 children.
I am Puerto Rican American. I am 24 years old. I moved to Orlando
Florida at the age of 12.

-        You frequented PULSE on many occasions. Tell me about
the club, people, vibe, etc… in the past.
I probably almost never missed a Saturday night or a Monday night.
Both which were Latin nights. The club was known to the Orlando
Community as night club to have fun. To celebrate you’re beauty.
Pulse was well rounded in the LGBT community and open up its
Venue for Drag competitions, Pageants, the ball room scene and
Vogue nights which I hosted each month. The atmosphere was
very positive and welcoming. My brother who is heterosexual says
its one of his favorite clubs to enjoying himself at.

-        The night of the shooting, walk me though your night… up
to when you went outside. Did you see anything suspicious?
The night of the shooting seemed to be just an ordinary Saturday
night. I arrived to the club with my two best friends Christopher little
star and Nick Perez. We met our other good friend Isaiah and his mother Brenda at the night club. That was usually a weekly routine for
us all. The only thing suspicious I remember was seeing Omar make several rounds around the outside patio. He kept staring at me.
He stood out from the crowd. He seemed to be alone and didn’t look like a familiar face. I turned to Isaiah and said “Can I ask him for my
face back”. I made that remark because of how he stared at me and for how long he stared.

-          If possible, give us some understanding of what you went through when the shooting happened. Where were you. What did
you feel. What happened…
When the shooting began I had just walked outside to the patio for maybe less than a minute to smoke a cigarette. I remember the first
round of shots like if it was yesterday. I instantly knew it was gun being fired. I looked to everyone’s reaction and my best friend Nick said
“Get down it’s a shoot out” I got down and crawled under the bar. I realized this wasn’t just an ordinary shoot out with just two individuals
because the gun shoots never stopped. I called 911 from my phone. I hid for a little over 5 minutes. During those 5 minutes both Dj’s
from inside and outside had turned off the music. I remember hearing screaming and seeing everyone scatter everywhere. I could hear
glass breaking the screaming get louder and the shooter get closer to the outside. I remember praying to god, that I wouldn’t die. I told
myself if I don’t get out of this place now, there’s a big possibility he’s coming outside to shoot everyone he can. I got up and ran jumped
over a black fence. I ran straight in to traffic I don’t even remembered if I looked both ways while crossing the major intersection of
Orange Ave. I ran in to my friend Javi and we were both just running for our lives. We were so out of breath jumping behind residential
houses in such fear and panic. All we could do is just scream in horror. We asked each other what the hell is going on. We began
making phone calls to all of our friends left inside. We got picked up from another friend who brought us home.

I am not 100 percent sure of how I feel as a Survivor.
I know that a lot of me feels guilty at times for being alive and for leaving
a lot of friends who died inside the club. I am currently seeing a Therapist
who is helping me cope with everything that happened. I’ve been blessed to
be supported by so many people who care about this tragic event. I haven’t
come across anyone who doesn’t understand.
I do know it’s not easy.
I find myself changing songs from the radio that promote gun violence.
I am sensitive to crowds and gun noises.

-          Tell me about your friendship with Chris, before
and now?
Me and chris almost never hung out with out each other.  
We were very close with each other. I was also his boss
for Domino’s Pizza so when we weren’t working together
we were always hanging out and bonding. I have bigger
appreciation for Chris because I almost lost him. I feel
like I never told him enough how much I loved him. I still
feel like I don’t tell him enough how much he means to
me. I will forever live with the guilt that best friend was
inside fighting for his life.

-        Tell us how Chris is doing, and what is in his
future? Other friends also affected – how are they?
I noticed such a great change from Chris in such a
positive way. Chris has never been an affectionate friend
like me. Now more than
ever I see this experience has allowed Chris to life from
a different perspective. He’s very humble and grateful to
be alive. Some friends choose to move on with life and
not speak about this event. I respect that. Not all of us
have handled this all the same. A lot our mutual friends
have been effected by this in their own way.


-        There is talk about turning Pulse into a permanent memorial site. How do you feel about this, and what should it be?
I believe Pulse should be turned in to a memorial site. I think it would be insensitive to reopen the same venue in the same site that
changed peoples lives forever. I don’t want this to be forgotten about. A memorial site will make sure this isn’t forgotten about.

-        How has this all affected or changed you? Others around you – family, friends, etc?
I am a very optimist person. Though this hurt me to the core of my being. I am still able to see the lesson and blessing in this all. I saw
this as a course correction of my life, from god. I have always aspired to become a life coach and become a motivational speaker. What
better time than now. They’re so much heeling to be done in this world. Through this tragic experience I know I am going to become the
change I’ve always hoped to see. This changed my out look on life in such a Positive way. Its great to see something good come out of
this all.

-        What do you want to do now, having lived this experience?
I am going to continue to work on myself. Slowly but surely I am going to become the best Angel to my ability. I am going to become
more involved in my community. I have several events coming up all of which have great meaning and a message behind it all of
spreading more love and less hate. A really great friend of mine and myself are launching a clothing line. This clothing line is going to
Inspire and influence this generation to live a very positive and meaningful lifestyle.

-        Do you feel any different about going out now? How?
Of course this experience has me more aware of my surroundings. I find myself looking for exits everywhere I go out now. I do however
want to encourage people and myself to keep dancing. We cant live in fear.

-        What are the 3 things you never leave home without?
I never leave home with out my keys, my cell phone and my wallet.

-        What is your favorite accessory or clothing?
My favorite accessory would have to be watches. I love all types of clothing I’m very fashionable.

-        Who will Angel Torres be in 10 years? What does he hope to be doing with his life?
Angel will be a very well known respected life coach. Angel will have a nation full of Gods children who he will take under his wing and
teach how to live a great meaningful life. I know that it is my responsibility to help participate in healing this universe we live in.

-        What will you speak about on Aug 6th Miami?
Pushing for better laws for gun control and hate crime awareness.

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