One Pulse


photo by Victoria Tomeo

After just a handful of weeks since the tragic massacre, the Pulse Nightclub continues to collect candles, signs, messages and visitors from around the world.

Victoria Tomeo, Staff Reporter

There is no noise in the house except for the news anchors that are rapidly speaking on the TV downstairs when senior Payton DeMarzo is shaken awake by her mom on what she expects to be an ordinary Sunday; what everybody expects to be an ordinary Sunday. There are chills going up her spine at the sound of sirens and deputies loudly speaking in front of microphones. She sits, and she watches and she grieves like the rest of the city, all while repeating the one realization that will haunt her for weeks after. “That could’ve been me.”

Coming out to parents is something that keeps most in the dark, or closet rather, about expressing who they really and truly are. What will they think? How will they react? How will life change after this? For DeMarzo, it ran a little deeper than that.

Her family accepted her immediately after the reveal, but showing her parents who she was just two weeks before the Pulse shooting left the house in a state of shock on that Sunday. The possibility that DeMarzo was almost one of the victims was enough to keep her awake most of the nights that followed the massacre on June 12.

“[The shooting] pretty much made the whole household really appreciate the fact that I decided not to go out and instead decided to stay in that night,” DeMarzo said. “I’m really, really glad I did.”

Her family spent most of that day calling and texting the friends they knew who went to Pulse regularly and making sure everyone was okay. Thankfully, DeMarzo and her family are not one of the families who lost a friend or family member; however, they knew a handful of people that ran out of the nightclub that night.

DeMarzo’s mother, an administrative head over Arnold Palmer and Winnie Palmer Hospital, was shaken at the realization that her daughter might have been on the victims list. Not only that, but she was also worried for her employees, who had to experience every moment and every death that occurred that night in the hospital.

“Everybody is just trying to forget and move on,” Christie DeMarzo said. “It’s the only way we can continue to do our jobs.”

I still will never be able to understand how any human being could commit an act so horrific, especially in a place meant to be open and free for people to express themselves and have fun.”

— Cassie Arrigo

Also assisting that night were the helicopter pilots from Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, pilot John Valentino and co-pilot Daniel Casanova. Both heard the emergency call just a few hours after the shooting occurred, and stood by in case the Orange County helicopter pilots needed to land for fuel. When the neighboring pilots called in an hour later, Valentino and Casanova were above the Pulse Nightclub in under ten minutes.

“Before we even got there, cars surrounded the place,” Casanova said. “It looked like all of Florida’s police officers were already there.”

Hundreds of marked and unmarked police cars, ambulances, and fire rescue covered the intersection where Pulse is located and most of the officers were standing behind a large fire truck to make room for the SWAT team that was rescuing people from the back walls of the nightclub when the two arrived.

Cautious and alert, Valentino and Casanova provided the aerial view, the inner and outer perimeters, for both Seminole County and Orange County Police to make sure that there were not multiple active shooters. The inner perimeter, which Casanova clarified, included the nightclub and the officers that were keeping bystanders away from the scene. The outer perimeter, which they could also see from above, kept the inner perimeter from being penetrated so that the danger stayed safely away from the rest of the city. Both described that night as something they would never forget.

“Communication is the key when something happens like this. We just have to be prepared for everything, which is why we train and train and train,” Casanova said.

According to both, the training done six months before the shooting paid off to the point that every measure taken for safety that night “went as smoothly as it could.” The training, held at UCF, involves a series of different scenarios in which police and other first responders have to safely contain an active shooter, bomber, etc.

Much like the first responder training, doctors and nurses at the major hospitals also run through scenarios in which their safety, and the safety of their patients, is compromised. As claimed by Christie DeMarzo, the training paid off.

“You have to try to make order out of chaos, and that’s exactly what we did,” Christie DeMarzo said.

I’ve been a deputy for 8 years and this definitely doesn’t happen every day. You just have to prepare as much as you can.”

— John Valentino

After the shooting and after the panic of finding out each of the names of every victim, the entire world seemed to recognize that a group hug was necessary. Gifts like blankets and cards from around the world were sent to the hospital and to the families of the victims and a memorial started to form outside of the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center and the Pulse Nightclub.

Orlando City Soccer hosted special events that following Saturday during the game including a moment of silence for the victims at the 49th minute and a series of balloons attached to 49 empty seats in Section 12 of the stadium.

Senior Cassie Arrigo, who attended the game that day with some friends, describes the game as emotional and “painfully real.”

“Looking over the field into the Ruckus section, I could see the pride flags and the ‘Love is Love’ signs proudly waving,” Arrigo said. “I could just feel everyone in that stadium growing close emotionally in that moment of silence.”

With everything that happened regarding the shooting, DeMarzo is just glad she decided to stay in and not go out to meet friends at Pulse. Not only that, but she is also thankful for her mother and especially all of the doctors and nurses that she personally knows that have to wake up every morning and forget that they couldn’t save everyone that night.

“Everybody who was working [at the hospital] the night of the shooting was sent home to cope and relax for the next day but everybody showed up for work instead of staying home” DeMarzo said. “It just shows how much everybody coming together helps us heal.”