Pulse survivors 'a giant family,' one year later

'I remember feeling the pain, thinking this is it,' Chris Littlestar says

By Troy Campbell - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Survivors of the Pulse shooting are continuing to recover both physically and mentally in days leading up to the one year anniversary.

Norman Casiano, Orlando Torres and Chris Littlestar all have something in common: making it out of the bathroom inside Pulse alive.

"We are all a family. You know the family of the people who are lost. The family of who are still here. And then the 53 of us that are still here. So it's a giant family," Casiano said. "I was more scared of the pain of getting shot than dying. Because in my mind I was like, this is it. Get ready because this is it."

Within moments of the first gun shots, all three men found themselves in a bathroom stall. Torres in one bathroom, and Casiano and Littlestar in the other.

For hours, Littlestar laid on the ground after being shot nearly a half-dozen times.

"I heard the gunshots and everybody ran into the bathroom. We all took cover, but it didn't really click until he came into bathroom and shot everybody. And then I was just there on the floor. I remember feeling the pain, thinking this is it," Littlestar said.

While also hiding in a bathroom, Torres laid on top of a toilet, praying the bullets would miss him above and below.

"He had touched me back there. I was just expecting at any second just to have my whole back riddled with bullets. I just thought I was going to be a goner at that point," Torres said.

In a daring show of strength, Casiano said when the shooter went inside the other restroom where Torres was, he found his opportunity to escape. Casiano said he jumped over the sink, the stall wall, and then sprinted towards the front door.

"I don't know how he didn't hear him making a move. I have no idea. I could hear him in the other, where he was," Torres said.

"The bullets were flying out and hitting the cement and I could feel them passing me, and I think back now how in the world were bullets passing me," Casiano said.

Officers asked Casiano if he was a victim or an assailant, and then instructed him to crawl towards the front door of Pulse after being shot.

Torres and Littlestar remained inside the club.

"I mainly think about the ending that night whenever I just remember getting into the back of the truck and then that was it. Everything else went black," Littlestar said.

In the year that has passed, these three men are living their lives on the theme that the gunman will not win. These survivors said they refuse to take their days alive for granted. At times during the past year, many of the survivors said they were surprised by their own strength, physically and mentally.

"If we keep ourselves in and we shut ourselves out from the work and we have fear, then he's not here physically, but you are letting this person now take control of your life," Casiano said.

All three said they continue to visit night clubs and bars. These survivors said dancing and experiencing life the way they did at Pulse for years is something they refuse to give up.

"People ask us how can you still go out after what, but we aren't going to let that defeat us. Can't let hate win. Nothing but love," said Torres.

In the year that has passed, it's what happened behind those walls that didn't stay there, that's giving these survivors hope. What happened inside that building has sparked reaction and support millions of people.

"It's crazy to have something like that tie so many of us together. Like no matter how much time passes," Casiano said. "No matter how much you don't speak to one another, it's like a family you know. You are bonded by that forever."

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