ORLANDO, Fla. – One year later, as the City Beautiful remembers the 49 people killed at the Pulse massacre, those who survived are still dealing with their pain. Some of them are just learning to stand up again, like Juan Jose Cufino-Rodriguez.
The former P.E. teacher from Columbia was one of the last people to leave the hospital. He said he woke up after being in a coma for two months, confined to a wheelchair. His life these days are full of ups and downs. Both physically learning to stand again, and emotionally learning to deal with the fact that he may never walk again.
"Today comes from the moment of that tragedy. Today has changed," said Rodriguez translated from Spanish to English. "As you can see, I am now limited to this wheelchair. I am limited to drinking medications every day. My right hand is still not working well. My legs are useless."
Rodriguez was in Orlando visiting for a few months and went to the Pulse nightclub for a goodbye party on June 12. He was supposed to go back to Columbia two days later.
Instead he came face to face with gunman Omar Mateen.
"My reaction was to stay on my feet and stay in front of him," Rodriquez said in Spanish. "I didn't see his eyes because everything was dark."
The only thing Rodriguez saw was the flashes of gunfire just feet in front of him.
A year after the shooting, for first time, News 6 is hearing from someone who tried to stop the carnage.
"Near my hand I could see that he was shooting and saw that he came toward me. I reached out with my right hand to try and grab the gun that he was shooting with and that's when I feel the first impact and I see that my hand is practically hanging," he said.
He begged for the shooting to stop.
"I was screaming. I was pleading to him, 'Please stop it. No more. Look at what you've done,'" Rodriguez
Rodriguez said that's when Mateen shot him in the knee and then in the right leg. He was shot four times.
"I just fell to my knees. I thought he was going to shoot me in the head. But I lowered my head and he shot me in the spine and that's why I'm in this chair," he said.
Until he gets strong enough to go back home to Columbia, Rodriguez's mother and son are in Orlando living with him and his partner Mario Garcia-Tellez. Tellez and Rodriguez met just three months before Pulse and has been there with him ever since.
"Unless (people) are directly touched by something like this, they will never understand the intensity of it," Tellez said. "This is probably something they will talk about for a while 2 and 3 months and forget it, but for the ones who have to stay that is something that is never going to go away and it makes a huge difference."
Rodriguez had surgery on May 17 and after his recovery he was able to return home to Columbia last week.