Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Christopher Hanson talks about surviving the Pulse Nightclub attack.

Christopher Hanson grew up in a small town that was just a 20 minute drive away from where Mathew Shephard was brutally murdered for being gay. On a vacation to Orlando her remembered gong to Universal and seeing rows of cherry blossom trees. It was a gorgeous sight and he decided at that moment that he would move to the City Beautiful. To him the trees symbolized universal love.

On the evening of June 12, 2016, he decided to put on his $3 American flag t-shirt and go to the Pulse nightclub for the first and only time to dance. Since the red striped ran vertically he felt the shirt thinned him a bit. He was new in town and hoped to meet new friends. His roommates didn't want to go. At 11PM his GPS made him pull into the club driveway the wrong way. At 11:08PM he had to pay for a $10 wrist band. He remembers because he had just missed the opportunity to avoid the cover. He walked through a curtain of beads to enter the club. "I want those beads" he thought to himself. He was meeting someone for a date and was an hour late. The gentleman who was a doctor wasn't pleased and he left. In the Adonis room dancers in jock straps and tennis shoes dances on the bar. "Wow" Christopher thought, "This is the kind of place I love to find." In a trip to the bathrooms, he thought to himself that the windows were rather small because he couldn't slip away from his date if he wanted to.

He ordered another double Jack and Ginger. It was Latin Night, so he couldn't talk to many people, but music is a universal language. He spoke to Kate the bartender. There was an underwear contest and the straight guy won with his denim underwear. After a few drinks and he leaned up against the wall to steady himself. J Low's song, "International" was playing.  He heard a Pow, Pow Pow sound. He moved to the beat thinking it was the bass. Then there was a repetition of bullets and he heard screaming. There was the sound of the liquor bar glass shattering. People fell to the floor around him and he dropped himself. Blood spattered. He saw the flashes from the barrel of the gun. He wasn't shot, so he crawled past the bathroom. People were running inside, but he knew that they had no way out. People stepped on him and over him to get out to the patio. The person to the left of him was shot. Outside on the patio, he stood. People were pushing against a fence gate to try and get out. It didn't open. He was amazed to find that the drink was still in his hand. He put the cup down. People crushed up against the closed gate until it finally gave way. Outside, a police office was pointing his weapon at the nightclub entrance.

Outside on a curb, Christopher helped a Spanish speaking man named who was shot twice. He took off his bandana and shoved it into a bullet hole to help slow the bleeding. Blood was bubbling up, boiling. He used his phone to call his dad, saying, "I'm alive." A girl was lying on the grass. She said, "Get me out of the grass." There were no medical gloves. She had been shot in the arm and back. He didn't know about the wound in her back but after he cradled her in his lap, he realized that the pressure from his legs might have slowed the bleeding from her back wound. Mina Justice was in the street looking for her son who was inside in the bathroom. She got a text from him that said, "I love you." "I'll never forget her face," Christopher said, "I remember passing the bathroom and thought, there is no way out." I hugged her and had to say, "It will be OK." He knew it was not going to be OK, and he sat down and broke down for the first time.

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