(House of Representatives - June 12, 2017)

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[Pages H4845-H4848]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 3, 2017, the Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Florida 
(Mrs. Demings) for 30 minutes.

                             General Leave

  Mrs. DEMINGS. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members 
may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and 
include any extraneous material on the subject of my Special Order.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentlewoman from Florida?
  There was no objection.
  Mrs. DEMINGS. Mr. Speaker, as I stand here tonight before you, in my 
hometown of Orlando, thousands of people are gathered at Lake Eola Park 
like they were 1 year ago to mourn, honor, and pay tribute to the 49 
lives we lost on January 12, 2016. We were with them earlier today. We 
would love to be with them tonight, as we were last year, but we are 
here doing the job we were elected to do.
  I am joined tonight by my colleague--I am absolutely honored to serve 
with him--Representative Darren Soto. We stand here tonight on the 
floor of the House of Representatives together so the world will not 
forget the lives we lost in the Pulse nightclub shooting.
  It was supposed to be like any other Saturday night for the men and 
women inside the Pulse nightclub. I can only imagine the excitement 
they shared that evening as they celebrated birthdays and friendships. 
Mr. Speaker, they were out for what my bishop likes to call late-night 
  Then, at 2:20 a.m., when everyone was closing their tabs for the 
night and about to head home, it was then that an ISIS-inspired gunman, 
motivated by hate, walked into the club and opened fire. Within a 
matter of minutes, he was able to kill 49 people and wound so many 
others. The innocent men and women in the club didn't stand a chance 
against him that night.
  We lost 49 lives. Their full potential will never be known, and we 
will always wonder, when we think about their lives, what could have 
been. Many others continue to recover from their visible and invisible 
  In the days and weeks following the Nation's deadliest mass shooting, 
we saw our community come together in beautiful ways. We mourned with 
those who lost their loved ones. We came out in droves to donate blood 
for the survivors who needed it. We showed support and gratitude for 
our law enforcement officers, our first responders, and the nurses and 
doctors who acted with courage and bravery in the face of unimaginable 
  We embraced and celebrated the diversity that makes Orlando ``The 
City Beautiful.'' We showed the world that we are a city who defeats 
hate with love.
  One year after the shooting, the wounds are still fresh and the scars 
are still not fully healed, but our community is resilient and united 
in the face of this tragedy.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield to my colleague from Florida, (Mr. Soto).
  Mr. SOTO. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Florida, 
Representative Val Demings. First of all, I thank her for her service 
in law enforcement and also for her husband, Jerry Demings' service in 
law enforcement and to remember the 1-year mark of the Pulse nightclub 

                              {time}  2030

  I wrote a poem entitled: ``Our Pulse Still Beats.''

     Inspiration from a brother lost too soon
     A place for his memory to play the tune
     Alas his pulse ceased
     A safe place for a rainbow of people
     Full expression was presented throughout this steeple
     They all danced to the pulsating sounds
     Then came a night of celebration
     For many friends from many nations
     On the move to impulsive grooves
     In the midst of the night a dark figure entered
     Hate-filled heart and soul a splintered
     His guns pulsating death.
     Horrors, and cries, as bullets fly
     Some they ran and some they died
     Their pulses ceased to be
     Brave officers infiltrated the scene
     A melee ensued amidst the smoke and gleam
     And in the end terror was silenced, the repulsive vanquished
     Medics and firefighters quickly came to the rescue
     Seeking out those who cried out with fading hues
     Come quick he is still breathing, wait she has a pulse
     In makeshift ambulances staining ER floors in red
     One by one saved from the dead
     On the monitor, pulses finally steady beep, beep, beep
     In the morn Orlando awakes in sadness
     But comes together as One above the madness
     The pulse of the city is unspeakable grief and unbreakable 
     From everywhere we came to the Center, the Bloodbank, the 
           Lake, and the Streets
     We gave our time, our pennies, our blood, our hugs, and our 
     Donors with a strong pulse are needed to replenish our stock
     Makeshift monuments grew before our eyes
     We gathered at Dr. Phillips for those we lost and those still 
     As the bell rang 49 times, sorrow became the natural impulse, 
           but so was unity
     This emotion, this grief, this love was felt around the world
     By mothers and fathers, boys and girls
     A community pulsating with sadness and defiant hope
     Our happy little tourist town known for magic
     Became the site of history's most violent shooting, tragic
     But our community's pulse still beats
     One year later one community stronger
     Our pulse still beats
     For those who survived

[[Page H4846]]

     Our pulse still beats
     And for those we lost
     Our love still remains
     For the 49 angels our love still remains
     Though pain will ever be in our hearts
     Our love still remains.

  Mrs. DEMINGS. I want to thank my colleague from Florida (Mr. Soto) 
for that very beautiful and inspiring poem that really captures not 
only the tragedy that occurred in Orlando at the Pulse Nightclub that 
night, but the heroic acts, how our community came together, and really 
provides the hope that our community needs in moving forward.
  Mr. Speaker, no one can tell the story better than the family members 
who lost their loved ones that night, the survivors who were within the 
club that night. At this time, we would like to share some of the 
letters from family members and survivors.
  The first letter that I would like to share comes from a mother who, 
if you were watching at all during the early hours of this tragic 
incident, this particular mother was going around asking anyone who she 
could about her son, trying to find him, trying to get word of him. I 
would like to share a mother's story from Christine Leinonen.
  ``My son was one of the 49 people killed at Pulse Nightclub on June 
12 of 2016. Those were 49 humans who collectively could have lived 
another 2,500 years. That is longer than we have had civilization. They 
were moms, dads, siblings, kids, straight, gay, Latino, Asian, 
Caucasian. They were your constituents. They deserved better than to 
die in a flurry of bullets.
  ``My son Chris was a happy, quirky, goofy young man and had been from 
baby on. He was every mother's dream to hit the kid lottery. He was an 
only child, and I never married. I couldn't have loved him more.
  ``He became a licensed mental health therapist. He loved his work and 
his personal life.
  ``Chris had many friends. Chris and his boyfriend, Juan, were one of 
at least three couples to die together that night: another Juan and two 
Luises. Chris was one of two Christophers to die that night and at 
least six Christophers who died or survived. The magnitude of the 
killing is that there were so many names repeated.
  ``My son was a loving and giving person. He was someone who was going 
to be my right-hand man as I became old and incapacitated. Now I have 
no one.
  ``Chris lived his life with love and kindness. He was a walking, 
talking United Nations, inclusive of all; not by design, but because he 
cared about character, not race, gender, sexuality, or ethnicity. He 
lived a life of inclusion. You would have loved him if you knew him, 
whether he was your child or friend or cousin or coworker. The world 
has a little less joy without him in it.
  ``Hugs and kisses, Christopher's mom.''
  And at this time, I would like to yield to my colleague from Florida 
(Mr. Soto), who will continue to share.
  Mr. SOTO. Mr. Speaker, I thank Congresswoman Demings for sharing 
Chris' story.
  A coworker of mine, Ramses Tinoco, who survived the Pulse Nightclub 
shooting, sent me this letter entitled ``Everlasting Unity.''
  ``My name is Ramses Tinoco, and I am a Pulse Nightclub shooting 
survivor. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to continue with my 
life so that I can spread empowerment, compassion, love, and unity.
  ``I want to express my feelings and point of view. Realistically, as 
a community and nation, we all suffered a tragic attack of terror on 
this one-year remembrance of June 12, 2016. Today, this is known as the 
biggest mass shooting in American history. Here at the doorsteps of 
Pulse Nightclub, let's take in consistent consideration of the ones who 
ultimately suffered the most: the victims, families of the deceased, 
the injured survivors, the other survivors who were there and escaped 
by God's grace, and the community who stood by, grieved in the 
  ``As a community, we have been given an opportunity to rebuild 
ourselves as stronger individuals and help those that are falling 
behind in depression, anguish, lament, and grief. As a community, we 
must show that constantly we are not alone, we are united more than 
ever, and, above all, that we are better than yesterday.
  ``This attack was a terrible and unfortunate tragedy to live through. 
It was an ultimate reminder that there is still a lot of discrimination 
and hate in this world. However, we must engage, learn from it, and 
utilize it to confront and prevent future fear in our community and 
ultimately the rest of the world. We can't be stronger if we fuel hate 
and negativity. We can't be stronger by pointing fingers and censoring 
others based on their race, financial status, sexual orientation, and 
religious beliefs.
  ``Our world is facing some hard times. Everyone is becoming a victim. 
How can we stop this and end the fear? We must stand up and speak out 
for our rights, for our peace and protection, and for the safety of our 
country. Above all, we need to engage solidarity and equality for the 
love of humanity. We can begin to make this world a better place, right 
here, right now. It starts with you going out and doing something nice 
for someone. We need to live in a world free of fear. That time begins 
  ``Ramses Tinoco'' of Orlando, Florida.
  Mrs. DEMINGS. Mr. Speaker, I thank Representative Soto for his 
  I would like to continue to share letters from the survivors of 
Pulse. The next letter that I will share comes from Brandon Wolf.
  ``It is hard to believe it has been a year. That Saturday night was 
like any other: loud music, skinny jeans, cheap drinks. Alongside my 
best friends, Drew Leinonen and Juan Guerrero, I was as free as ever. 
Standing outside on the patio, in his typical way, Drew tossed his arm 
around my shoulders and spoke his last words to me: `You know what we 
never say enough? That we love each other.' ''
  Those were the last words that Drew spoke that evening.
  `` . . . I learned a lesson from Orlando's recovery: that equality 
and unity aren't trophies, and the journey we are on isn't over. We 
can't take our eyes off the prize or forget what lies ahead.
  ``We have to disarm hate. Silence it. Snuff it out. Replace it with 
the same message Drew had for me: love.
  ``Brandon Wolf.''
  At this time, I yield to my colleague from Florida (Mr. Soto) to 
share another letter regarding this tragic incident.
  Mr. SOTO. I thank the gentlewoman from Florida (Mrs. Demings) for 
sharing Brandon's story.
  Next we have a story from a friend.
  ``My name is Jim McDermott, and I am a good friend of Chris Brodman 
who was the first survivor of the Pulse massacre to pass away of a rare 
brain aneurysm on September 11 of last year. Chris came to Orlando and 
made it his home in the fall of 2007. His outgoing, natural interest in 
other people and their stories made him quite popular in our 
community--and we are still grieving his loss to this day. It is hard 
to imagine that his constant, wonderful smile is not around anymore to 
brighten our days.
  ``He was and is the best friend one could ever have.
  ``Chris was celebrating at Pulse a few days late because he had to 
work on the actual day of his birthday itself. He was lingering with 
friends, enjoying the festive atmosphere of the club that was one of 
his favorites, when the attack began. In what I find to be an example 
of his character, Chris pushed his friends to safety over the back 
fence first before escaping himself. Not one person who knows him finds 
this to be a surprise, as Chris was always our protector, our 
confidante, and our hero.
  ``As we come upon the one-year mark of the assault on Pulse, we 
wanted to remind the world of his heroism and his day-to-day loving 
example of how a great person can affect your life for the better. 
Chris loved people that were utterly themselves and unique. He prized 
authenticity and loyalty wherever he went. He had high standards, and 
he lived by them, and it made us want to live up to them as well.
  ``I know in my heart that he would want us to bridge the divides that 
separate us. He believed strongly in forgiveness and kindness. He was 
open to new ideas and new ways of thinking if it would lead people to a 
better life. My favorite recent picture of him was after the shooting 
where he proudly held up

[[Page H4847]]

a sign at the LGBT Center downtown saying: `Love always wins.'
  ``In his memory, let us strive to remember not just the victims of 
this tragedy but the survivors as well. Let us ensure that they are 
getting the counseling and medical care that they continue to need. We 
should strive to maintain the loving bubble of hope that has surrounded 
our city, because of this event, despite all of the strife and division 
elsewhere in this country. We need to tell, preserve, and remember 
their stories, for they are worth hearing.''

                              {time}  2045

  ``They have important lessons to teach all of us. Orlando is known as 
being the premier destination in the world for families of all kinds--a 
rainbow of diversity that is infused in every aspect of our city 
beautiful. So today let us protect the loving vision Orlando has become 
around the world in the face of this tragedy. Let us stay Orlando 
Strong. And in so doing, we remain the beautiful haven that drew Chris 
to us.
  ``And let us never forget the red-haired boy from Shirley, New York, 
who taught us about unconditional love and friendship from the day he 
  ``We love you forever, Chris.
  ``Jim McDermott.''
  Mrs. DEMINGS. Mr. Speaker, at this time, I would like to share a 
survivor's letter by the name of Joshua McGill.
  ``My name is Joshua McGill, and I was there the night of the Pulse 
shooting a year ago.
  ``Although nothing will ever take away that tragic night for me and 
the fellow LGBTQ community, not only for Orlando, but for all people 
around the world that were affected by this form of hate towards our 
community, I must say that we have not let hate win thus far, and 
continue to spread love and prayers for one another and for the other 
families and victims that were either there that night, or affected in 
some way.
  ``It has been a true honor in seeing how close everyone has come 
together. It shows our strength as a whole and the love that we can all 
provide for one another in a time of need.
  ``The continuance of all of this gives me hope for my future in the 
community and in the world. May God bless you and everyone out there.
  ``I've become a stronger person since then, and if my strength can 
help others, I want to.
  ``Thank you for hearing my words.
  ``Joshua McGill.''
  Mr. Speaker, I yield again to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Soto), 
my colleague.
  Mr. SOTO. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from Florida, 
Congresswoman Demings, my colleague, for reading the letter of Joshua. 
How inspiring it really was.
  Next we have a statement from our dear friend, Eric Rollings, who is 
one of our supervisors of the Orange County Soil and Water Board, and 
who also is one of our only openly gay elected officials.
  ``As an openly gay elected official and Orlando resident for 27 
years, I know the city and Orange County very well. We are a loving, 
caring community that supports the rights and pursuit of happiness for 
all of our residents. One year ago this very day, we were devastated to 
feel the loss of so many lives from every part of all of Orlando. Yes, 
Pulse by name was a gay nightclub, but it was attended by everyone and 
all walks of life felt safe dancing and having a good time for more 
than a decade.
  ``As the night became dawn and the horror of the extent of what 
happened became painfully available by every media outlet, I didn't 
need to listen to news reports because I live right across the street 
from Pulse. The sound of the blades from the helicopters above my house 
cut through June air, day after day, looking for a better camera angle. 
Out of so much pain came so much love.
  ``Immediately Orlando went into action. The outpouring of love from 
everywhere in the world is still so incredible. The help came from 
faith-based organizations, the small stores, corporate America. Most of 
all, it came out of love and our neighbors. I hope this never happens 
to your community or any community, but it most likely will. Let me 
offer some advice.
  ``Love thy neighbor, know your neighbor, and take care of your 
neighbor. Do not wait until another tragedy. Talk to your children 
about violence. Let's help the persons that suffer from mental 
  ``There is a significance and real difference between a city that is 
tolerant, a city accepting, and a city that embraces the LGBTQ and all 
its communities and individuals within those communities. I am proud to 
live in a city and a county that embraces! We are Orlando Strong and we 
are Orlando United.''
  Mrs. DEMINGS. Mr. Speaker, I would like to share this last survival 
letter for tonight. It is from Eric Borrero. It says:
  ``Dear Congress,
  ``It is to me how fast one year has gone by. The horrifying emotions 
and feeling of that night have not fleeted. Instead, they lay dormant 
in the recesses of my mind, bubbling up like lava in a moment's notice 
from unforeseen triggers.
  ``It is like living on a roller coaster: having great moments over 
the past year, making things feel absolutely normal; and extreme lows, 
feeling as if I will never come out of the darkness.
  ``Even through the disturbing images of the past, I am optimistic 
about the future I have ahead of me. I can fully grasp that life will 
never go back to the normal that I once knew, but this experience has 
helped me focus on what is needed in the world. That is love and 
inclusion for all people.
  ``Over the past year, I have had the most amazing support system of 
friends and family, who have been there for me as I have cried and 
battled the demons that lay with me when I sleep.
  ``These feelings have not changed since that night, but I remain 
positive and stand with my LGBTQ and Latinx brothers and sisters for a 
better future for everyone.
  ``Eric Borrero.''
  Mr. Speaker, I would like to share that, today, Representative Soto, 
Representative Stephanie Murphy, and I introduced a resolution to 
recognize and mark one year since the Pulse tragedy. We were joined by 
143 Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, who are standing to 
show the community of Orlando that we stand with them in support; that 
Congress will not forget the victims, the survivors, the first 
responders, and the communities that are shattered by the hands of 
domestic terrorists; and that we will do everything we can to prevent 
future mass shootings, and take care of the people who are left 
standing in the wake of these tragedies.

  Mr. Speaker, our community declared June 12, 2017, Orlando United 
Day, a day of love and kindness. All across our community, people are 
coming together to honor the victims by volunteering and attending 
vigils and memorials.
  We are a community that will never forget. We won't forget those 49 
innocent men and women who were sons, daughters, mothers, husbands, 
wives, students, teachers, entrepreneurs, and dreamers, who had a lot 
of life left to live. We are a community that will continue to honor 
these men and women, not through our words, but through our actions.
  Mr. Speaker, I thank God for Representative Soto, for his service to 
our community. I am honored to serve with him in the United States 
Congress. I appreciate the work that he has done for the last several 
years throughout our community. I was honored to share this Special 
Order with him.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Soto).
  Mr. SOTO. Mr. Speaker, I include in the Record a list of the names of 
those who perished in the Pulse Nightclub shooting.

              [From www.cityoforlando.net, June 12, 2017]

                             Victim's Names

       Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old; Amanda L. Alvear, 25 
     years old; Oscar A. Aracena Montero, 26 years old; Rodolfo 
     Ayala Ayala, 33 years old; Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old; 
     Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old; Angel Candelario-Padro, 
     28 years old; Juan Chavez Martinez, 25 years old; Luis Daniel 
     Conde, 39 years old; Cory James Connell, 21 years old.
       Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old; Deonka Deidra Drayton, 
     32 years old; Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old; 
     Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old; Mercedez Marisol 
     Flores, 26 years old; Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz, 22 years old; 
     Juan Ramon

[[Page H4848]]

     Guerrero, 22 years old; Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old; 
     Frank Hernandez, 27 years old; Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 
     years old.
       Javier Jorge Reyes, 40 years old; Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 
     19 years old; Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old; Anthony 
     Luis Laureano Disla, 25 years old; Christopher Andrew 
     Leinonen, 32 years old; Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years 
     old; Brenda Marquez McCool, 49 years old; Gilberto R. Silva 
     Menendez, 25 years old; Kimberly Jean Morris, 37 years old; 
     Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old.
       Luis Omar Ocasio Capo, 20 years old; Geraldo A. Ortiz 
     Jimenez, 25 years old; Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old; 
     Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old; Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 
     35 years old; Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old; Jean Carlos 
     Nieves Rodriguez, 27 years old; Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-
     Rosado, 35 years old; Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years 
     old; Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old.
       Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old; Shane Evan Tomlinson, 
     33 years old; Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old; Martin 
     Benitez Torres, 33 years old; Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24 
     years old; Juan Pablo Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old; Luis 
     Sergio Vielma, 22 years old; Franky Jimmy Delesus Velazquez, 
     50 years old; Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old; Jerald 
     Arthur Wright, 31 years old.

  Mrs. DEMINGS. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.