Cory James Connell went to Pulse nightclub for a night of dancing with his girlfriend, Paula Andrea Blanco, before he was shot and killed with 48 others, his parents told News 6.
The Edgewater High School graduate was celebrating his birthday with his friend, Jerald Arthur Wright, 31, who was also killed in the shooting.
Connell, 21, worked at Publix on Edgewater Drive in College Park as a stocker, and he was studying sports journalism and broadcasting at Valencia Community College.
Orange County Fire Rescue paramedic Lori Clay said during his funeral that Connell was also interested in pursuing a career in firefighting.
"I miss him every day. Every day, I miss him," his mother, Tara Connell, told News 6.
Shortly after the shooting, the Publix became a memorial site for people who knew Connell to come and pay their respects.
Members of the Edgewater High School football team kicked off their season in August wearing patches on their uniforms that read "C.C." in honor of Connell.
"It touches home," his sister, Amanda, said. "It makes me know that he is here with me. The game is going on here tonight, and it's going to bring me back to ninth grade when I went (and) my brother was playing football."
Amanda was supposed to go with her brother to a nightclub near Pulse, but the plans fell through. The last time she talked to her brother, he called and said, "I love you." She replied, "I love you too."
He was walking to his car hours later when he walked past the gunman who was on his way to Pulse. He and Blanco were shot.
Blanco, a running back for the Orlando Anarchy women’s football team, survived after surgery.
ESPN ran a special last July in which Blanco told her story. She said she met Connell while playing flag football and he always called her "Sunshine."
Connell's sister, Amanda, had a baby boy in August and named him Cory.
“I can’t wait until the day I can tell you the meaning behind (your name),” she wrote on Facebook.
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