Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Mercedez Marisol Flores


 This post discusses the shooting that took place at the Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016. It contains difficult content, so please do not read on if you feel you may be effected. 

This article and sketch have been posted with the express written permission of the interviewees. Analog Artist Digital World takes the privacy and wishes of individuals very seriously. 

On the dining room table were photos of Mercedez. She was 1 year old in one photo, 15 years old in another, and in a third she had graduated high school. A memory box contained dried flowers and a photo of her. The Flores family had gathered to share just a fraction of the memories from Mercedez Marasol Flores's life.

Mercedez loved parties. She was very independent and protective of her friends. Her friends were everything to her. She planned her 16th birthday party herself. She rented a house and that was the first party she planned from scratch. She wanted to become an event planner and was always the life of the party.

For the Superbowl, Mercedez and Amanda Alvear came to the Flores home to cook for everyone. Marisol made a spinach and artichoke dip. It was super cheesy. Amanda brought her nieces. They were all dancing and having fun. That was the last time that the family spent with both of them. It was such a nice day.

Mercedez father, César H Flores, Sr. had a dream where he went to a river with his daughter. He told her not to go in the water because there were alligators. She went into the water anyways. He saw the alligators starting to swim quietly towards her and he snapped awake. He recalled that it was a very bad dream.

Mercedez' mom had been having a few conversations with Mercedez and Amanda, letting them know it wasn't safe anymore to go out every weekend. They had promised her that they would at least calm down and not go out so much. But they loved going to Pulse, it was like home to them.

On June 12, 2016, César Sr. worked a night shift at his job starting at 11:30 at night until 8 in the morning. On the night of the shooting everything he did at work went wrong. He started to sweat profusely, his body shook. He needed a break and he stopped to watch TV for a moment. News about a shooting at the Pulse Nightclub flashed on the screen. He felt sorry for all those people. At 7am his son called him saying his sister had not come home. Her car wasn't in the driveway. Then he remembered that she had gone to a nightclub to celebrate someone's birthday. He immediately went home, then to the hospital with his two sons to get answers. They didn't get answers from anyone. Someone called and said she was on the injured list. The name on that list was someone else's but their hopes had been raised.

That night Nancy Flores had seen some Snapchat posts from Amanda and Mercedez. She saw the whole night unfold with them having fun and having drinks. Mercedez was always so happy with her friends.  Nancy woke up at 7am, and for some reason went back to Amanda's story and it was really scary. She heard gun shots at the end of the video. She thought, Oh my God what happened, and that is when they started getting all the phone calls. While dad and the sons went to the hospital, Nancy tried to comfort mom.

That morning César Flores Jr. had been watching the news and he saw the commotion and it occurred to him that his sister was at Pulse. They called Mercedez multiple times on the phone and also tried getting a hold of Amanda, then they reached out to all her other friends through social media. They knew that some people had gotten out of the club, but at 8:30 in the morning they were not getting any answers. The first thing they wanted to do was go to the police department. Then they drove around the Pulse Nightclub area. They couldn't get close. An officer told them to go to the nearest hospital. That is when they started putting 2 and 2 together. They were then directed over to  headquarters by the Amway. They saw young kids that were injured, bleeding. Others were crying giving their testimonies to the officers. There was chaos. They gave Mercedez name to multiple officers and detectives there, but couldn't get any answers. Then they were told they should go down to the hospital because the injured were there.

They rushed to the hospital and stayed in touch with mom and Nancy. When they got to the hospital they started seeing how huge this was. There were crowds of reporters, and hundreds of people. They were taken to a holding area where the doctors were careful to only give solid information. There, they saw Amanda's family. Amanda's dad was in bad shape. Amanda's mom said, "It could be our girls too." They couldn't get any answers.

They were moved to a hotel somewhere and then the doctors came in. People were enraged that they couldn't get any information. It was the worst feeling. Names were read of a few survivors and people that were critically injured, and they were praying to God to hear Mercedez' name. There were a few times where César Sr thought he heard her name. But it wasn't her. They finished the list and there was a commotion. A high ranking officer got on a chair and shouted, "Please go home and come back tomorrow. We will have some sort of an answer then." That moment is when a chill set in. They had to accept the tragedy for what it was. The three of them just walked towards the car with no hope. At that moment they knew.

Everyone was broken. No one could sleep, just laying in bed. A police officer came to the Flores house and he confirmed that Marisol was no longer with us. All hope was gone. Then they wanted to know about Amanda too. They were together that night. Amanda had lost her brother when he was very young, and now her parents had to face loosing another child. The dream about the river had tried to tell César Sr something. The last time he saw his daughter was about 2 in the afternoon.

Mercedez and Amanda were such close friends and they spent their last moments together. They must have felt such fear, but from that moment they began to watch over both families and they continue to watch over them. Even as we sat at the dining room table, César Jr could still imagine his sister storming into the living room and shouting to mom. The last time we saw her she was rushing into the house because it was a Friday and she needed her nails and her hair done with Amanda. It felt like she was still at work.

César Jr. and his dad went to court to learn what happened that night. The gunman's wife was on trial as an accomplice. They were there every day except the day the shooter's wife was found not guilty. The worst was when they showed the machine gun, it was then easy to see what had happened. The funeral director told them more about what happened to Marisol than the police. She explained how she received the body and the cause of death and injuries. She advised the family not to see her before the preparations, that that is a memory that can not be erased and that it would be better to remember her as she was. After all  those days of not knowing, the family finally got to see her. She had a tattoo of a cross and the entire family was considering getting the same tattoo. Pam Schwartz at The History Center put them in touch with a tattoo artist who had done many Pulse related tattoos, they have since gone as a family to put their memory of Mercedez in permanent ink. The family was given all the personal items of Mercedez. She was buried in Guatemala where her parents plan to retire. She had actively helped bring together fractured branches of the family.

On her birthday, the Flores family went to Pulse for the first time. They saw the support and the love that people had left there and the stories that they shared. There was something for everybody. Going to Pulse was different now and they felt at peace. Mercedez God daughter was wandering around and she found a little Popsicle stick with Mercedez name on it. It gave them so much joy, it changed the mood. They read so many notes and found it very comforting.

Mercedez worked for Target. The family one day found the courage  to go back to Target after she was gone. There was a corporate meeting and everyone wanted to meet them. The co-workers had stories about how they met and how Mercedez helped them out or how she got them the job. Such beautiful team members. They gave her so much love, such as she had given to them all. 

6 Months after the shooting the family walked in the Pride Parade. They felt the mutual respect that Mercedez had for everyone. She helped open so many people's eyes to accept everyone for who they are, to try and make a difference in other people's lives. In the 26 years she was here, she managed to make such an enormous impact.


Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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