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On anniversary of Pulse mass shooting, survivor remembers best friends who were killed

·3-min read

On the anniversary of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people, including many who were Latinx and part of the LGBTQ+ community, a survivor is urging Americans to honor his slain friends with action.

"Has it been 5 years? Or were you just a dream?" Brandon Wolf tweeted on Saturday, five years to the day after escaping from what became the deadliest mass shooting in America at the time.

MORE: How one Pulse shooting survivor found love, learned to live again after tragedy

Wolf's best friends, Juan Guerrero and Drew Leinonen, were among the 49 killed.

PHOTO: Survivors and their supporters gather at Pulse in downtown Orlando on the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting that took 49 lives, June 12, 2021. (Craig Bailey/Florida Today via USA Today Network)
PHOTO: Survivors and their supporters gather at Pulse in downtown Orlando on the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting that took 49 lives, June 12, 2021. (Craig Bailey/Florida Today via USA Today Network)

"5 years without your smiles. Silly laughs. Playing music one notch too loud. Watching the same music videos on repeat. 5 years feels like eternity," Wolf wrote. "Miss you. Love you. And I won't stop fighting for a world you'd be proud of."

To the public, Wolf said, "I beg you: commit to honor them not with empty thoughts or hollow annual sympathies. Commit to #honorthemwithaction."

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In the aftermath of the shooting, Wolf said he was inspired to become an advocate while watching cable news.

"The panel of heterosexual white men seemed to me to talk about everything except what really mattered -- the lives that were stolen, the difficulty of undocumented family members to receive victim resources, the pain of being a gay man, unable to donate blood to help the wounded, the hole ripped in a community that faces violence and hate every day," Wolf wrote in a USA Today article published Saturday. "At that moment, I dedicated my life to making sure my friends wouldn't just be two of 49, to fighting for a country that values and protects everyone."

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In a statement Saturday acknowledging the anniversary, President Joe Biden said he will soon sign a bill to designate Pulse as a national memorial.

Biden also called for action on the "public health epidemic of gun violence," including the banning of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and closing background check loopholes.

"It is long past time we close the loopholes that allow gun buyers to bypass background checks in this country, and the Senate should start by passing the three House-passed bills which would do exactly that," Biden said. "It is long past time we ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, establish extreme risk protection orders, also known as 'red flag' laws, and eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability."

Biden added: "We must also acknowledge gun violence’s particular impact on LGBTQ+ communities across our nation. We must drive out hate and inequities that contribute to the epidemic of violence and murder against transgender women -- especially transgender women of color. We must create a world in which our LGBTQ+ young people are loved, accepted, and feel safe in living their truth.

"And the Senate must swiftly pass the Equality Act, legislation that will ensure LGBTQ+ Americans finally have equal protection under law."

PHOTO: Survivors and their supporters gather at Pulse in downtown Orlando on the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting that took 49 lives, June 12, 2021. (Craig Bailey/Florida Today via USA Today Network)
PHOTO: Survivors and their supporters gather at Pulse in downtown Orlando on the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting that took 49 lives, June 12, 2021. (Craig Bailey/Florida Today via USA Today Network)

Several events are scheduled in Orlando on Saturday to mark the anniversary.

At noon local time, church bells rang 49 times for the 49 victims.

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A walk will be held in the afternoon followed by a remembrance ceremony in the evening.

ABC News' Justin Gomez contributed to this report.

On anniversary of Pulse mass shooting, survivor remembers best friends who were killed originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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