Surviving when it’s close to home: remembering Pulse one year later

I remember that night like it was just yesterday. Looking at my phone and seeing the pictures of two people l consider family, one being like a son to me and one being like a sister to me.

I remember saying – “Oh my god, I wish I was there with you. Have fun for me and be safe.” And then I fell asleep.

I woke up several hours later to many frantic text messages from my sister telling me she cannot find my son and that there was a fatal shooting at the club. I looked at the message and couldn’t believe what I was reading. But then I turned on the TV and started texting people in my circle, including my son’s partner. They told me that this was really happening and that my son was still missing.

My heart was racing, pounding so hard I thought it would come out of my chest. I kept calling and texting my son, but got no reply.

Later that evening, I finally received the call that he was okay but still in shock. However, he couldn’t find one of his best friends. Later on we found out that his friend never made it out of the club.

It’s been a tough year, especially being so close to not one but two survivors of that tragic night, where so many who were out just enjoying themselves lost their lives through an act of hate.

I count my blessings every day that I have the privilege to work with an organization like the New York City Anti-Violence Project, where we’ve been providing services for nearly 40 years to LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of violence. It came as no surprise that we made ourselves ready to assist those in crisis due to this horrific tragedy.

In my role as a Senior Counselor/Advocate, I spoke with many clients and community members about their fears and trauma following the shooting at Pulse Nightclub. I also held and worked through my own personal experience, and the experiences of my loved ones.

Collectively, we all began to move toward healing.

Living with this – or any – experience of violence is an ongoing process, and we are always here to help.

If you or someone you know has experienced or witnessed hate violence, or if you just want to talk about the feelings that remembering Pulse has brought up for you, please call our 24 hour bilingual hotline at 212-714-1141.

Sleep in peace to all the 49 fallen angels.

Chanel Lopez is a Senior Counselor/Advocate at the New York City Anti-Violence Project.