I have drawn these sketches to pay tribute to the Orlando victims.
Juan Ramon Guerrero, Leroy Valentin Fernandez, Martin Benitez Torrres, Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, Oscar Aracena Montero, Jean Carlos Mendez Perez. Photo credit: Lena Hades
Here are their stories.
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez had a humor and warmth that made him a great salesman - and helped him find love, a co-worker said. "He laughed with the people and would make jokes," said Claudia Agudelo, who worked with Perez at a perfume store. "He was always happy." Mendez Perez met his longtime partner, Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, about a decade ago when he sold him the fragrance Declaration by Cartier, Agudelo told the Orlando Sentinel. Wilson-Leon also died in the nightclub shooting.Mendez Perez moved to the U.S. from Puerto Rico when he was a teenager, and made friends quickly, father Angel Mendez said."He was a real dynamic kid," he said.Sister-in-law Katia Mendez said Mendez Perez also was a fun-loving and doting uncle who would buy her three children candy and ice cream."He was like a little kid when he was with them," she said.
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Torres had recently moved to Orlando and was working to become a pharmacy technician.
Benitez was a student at a Tampa satellite campus of the Ana G. Mendez University System, based in Puerto Rico, where he was born. In a university statement, one of his professors called him a "diligent and extremely hardworking student." Benitez was "thankful for the opportunity to advance his career and hopeful to make his dreams a reality," said Carla Zayas, a Spanish professor. He posted several photos and videos on his Facebook page in the days before the shooting, including one in the kitchen cooking with family members.The cover photo on his Facebook profile includes a quote in Spanish: "If God takes away my eyesight, it's because I've been allowed to see everything that's beautiful in the world."
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
As the Florida non-profit blood donation center OneBlood was working around the clock to collect blood for the wounded victims of Sunday's shooting, they were also mourning the loss of one of their own.
Ayala-Ayala was a platelet supervisor in the Orlando OneBlood laboratory, the organization said in a statement. He began working at OneBlood in 2011 as a biologics assistant and "through his commitment and dedication" was promoted several times," said a OneBlood statement. "Rodolfo was a highly respected member of the OneBlood family. He was passionate about saving lives and took great pride in the lifesaving work he performed," the statement said. OneBlood added that co-workers often turned to Ayala-Ayala for direction because he was so knowledgeable in his field. "He was a caring and friendly person and will be greatly missed by everyone who had the honor of knowing him," the statement said.
Oscar Aracena-Montero, 26
Aracena-Montero had just bought a home with his partner, Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31. Carrillo Fernandez was also killed Sunday. The two had just returned from vacation and stopped for a brief time at their new Kissimmee home before heading out to Pulse, his cousin, Yamilka Pimentel, told the Orlando Sentinel. "Oscar was a very sweet guy. Very sweet to everybody," Pimentel said. "Every time he met somebody they would like him a lot. He was the type of guy who goes along with anybody." Yamil Caraballo, a friend of Aracena-Montero, told NPR "he was amazing." "He was a great man and loved the Lord with all his heart," Carabello said.
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Fernandez recently had found a job as a leasing agent for an Orlando apartment complex, said his friend, Jennifer Rodriguez. "He had finally found something he liked. He was taking care of his mom," she said of Fernandez, who was also her hair stylist and one of her best friends. "He was like a brother," she said. "He was just really very spirited and always happy, you know?" Fernandez recently had been dating an older man, a dancer known by the stage name Eman Valentino, who also died in the shooting.
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
He was a student at the University of Central Florida and worked as a telemarketer. His Spanish name Guerrero means "warrior". He was young and beautiful, and he was killed...
There are another stories and another portraits, to be continued...