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These Heroes From The Pulse Nightclub Massacre Offer A Glimmer Of Silver Lining

Eyewitness accounts from the tragic night.

Joe Burbank // Orlando Sentinel

As the warm temps outside Pulse nightclub on South Orange Avenue allowed for a festive Saturday evening, enjoyment and relaxation seemed to be the only thing on everyone’s minds as they filled up the club space. Unfortunately, what started off as just another high-spirited night at the self-described "hottest gay bar in Orlando," eventually turned into a gut-wrenching, unconscionable attack on — as President Obama noted in a Sunday press conference — "All of us."

Through the harrowing events that transpired thereafter, leaving 49 dead and 53 wounded, were heroes who rose through the debris of gunfire and chaos and put themselves in harm’s way to save lives. These are they’re stories.

DJ Ray Rivera, a.k.a DJ Infinite

It was nearing last call, specifically right before 2 a.m., when resident DJ at Pulse, Ray Rivera, also known as DJ Infinite, started playing reggae music for the jovial crowd. "It was a normal night, people were having a great time, people were dancing," Rivera told The Daily Beast in an interview. But as the music pounded inside the bar, which to many around the community formed more like "safe space," a loud crack of what sounded like firecrackers stirred attention. "I thought it was someone lighting firecrackers," he said. "So I turned the music down, and heard some more. I turned the music off." It was at this point, where Rivera quickly went from spinning records to saving lives. Ducking behind his DJ booth, Rivera was eventually joined by two clubgoers — "a guy and a girl." Shortly after one of the man made a run for it, Rivera helped the woman escape. Upon breaking out of the club, he said, "officers were there, guns drawn — they showed up there within a minute or so."

Christopher Hansen

Christopher Hansen was at the bar when he first heard the gunshots and upon hearing them, he, as told to CNN, "just saw bodies going down." While trying to crawl toward the exit, Hansen saw a man who had been wounded and helped out by staunching the victim's gunshot wound with his bandana. "I took my bandana off and shoved it in the hole in his back," he said.

Joshua McGill

As chaos erupted inside the club, Joshua McGill, 26, escaped unscathed. While hiding behind a car, McGill noticed a man, stumbling out with multiple gunshot wounds to his arm and back. Pulling the stranger, who was later identified as Rodney Sumter, a bartender at the club, McGill used his shirt to make a tourniquet on Sumter's arms to prevent the bleeding. Ensuring the man that he would be okay, McGill, who happens to be a nursing student, rode with Sumter to the hospital and was later listed in stable condition.

Orlando Police Officers

During the standoff between the gunman and police officers, 11 officers and three sheriff’s deputies stepped up and exchanged fire. Orlando’s former police chief Val Demings praised the bravery of the officers, stating in an interview "The carnage would have been worse if not for the officers."

Edward Sotomayor Jr.

Edward Sotomayor Jr. was one of the first victims identified in the mass shooting. The 34-year-old was shot to death after shielding his boyfriend, according to several news reports. "What I will say, over and over again, was he was a person who said, 'We cannot be afraid,'" said his boss, Al Ferguson. "I know his friends are going to be the exact same way… we are not going to be afraid."

Blood bank donors

In the wake of the horrific aftermath, blood banks in the Orlando community are at capacity as hundreds braved the Central Florida heat to donate blood to victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. On Sunday (June 12), OneBlood urged donors to refrain from stopping by the West Michigan Avenue location and, instead, schedule appointments. This, of course, is in order to avoid the long wait times. To find a donation center or Big Red Bus near you, head to Oneblood.org or call 1.888.9Donate.

Local citizens share their reaction to the tragedy and their hopes for recovery.

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