Pulse victim reflects on life, one year after massacre

Angel Santiago, Jr. survived the Pulse nightclub massacre.

ORLANDO, Fla. (WFLA) – It has been a year.  A year of ups and downs.

“What we went through – these are things in life no one in their life should ever have seen or go through,” said Angel Santiago, Jr.

Santiago was inside the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016. That’s when a gunman stormed the building and opened fire.  49 people were killed, 53 were injured.

Santiago, who was shot twice, hid in a back bathroom until a split-second decision. “I managed to drag myself out of that bathroom to get help,” he said.

Help would come that night.  It would come in the days ahead.  Help let him live. But what would he make of his life?

“I don’t sit here and complain about the pain and dwell and mope around,” Santiago said.  “It’s just a reminder I survived. For me, it’s a reminder I survived.”

With that survival came a sense of renewal.

Santiago now takes classes at Valencia College in Orlando.  His new-found interest?  Nursing, thanks to the exceptional care he received at Florida Hospital in the days after the shooting.

Recently, he visited Washington, D.C., and met with leaders including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), to discuss gun violence and prevention.

“I’ll do what I can to help,” Santiago said.  “I’ll share my story.  I’ll give my opportunity and I’ll try to be a voice for those who don’t have this opportunity.”

Knowing his story went from sorrow to inspiration.

“No matter how hard it is – we have the strength within us to pick ourselves up and move forward.  So you just need to channel that negativity.  Don’t let it overtake you.  Don’t let it overcome you.”

Santiago tells us he passes the now-closed nightclub on a regular basis, and has become comfortable being nearby.

He’s unsure if he’ll attend any anniversary events in Orlando.

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