In an emotional meeting that left both in tears, pop star Katy Perry hugged Pulse nightclub shooting survivor Tony Marrero, who had said her song “Rise” helped him through the aftermath of the tragedy.
“The lyrics to that song are so powerful,” Marrero told daytime talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres in segment that aired Thursday. “Every word in that song is just powerful. I embraced it,” he said, adding, “I play it and play it and play it because it’s still so beautiful.”
Then to his visible surprise and to strains of the song, DeGeneres brought out Perry, who hugged the Marrero, described by Us Weekly as a 30-year-old employee of Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, Florida.
“I’m, like, shaking right now!” Perry said as she sat down. “We’re both electrified by each other and so inspired,” she told Marrero. “I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. Your story is so inspirational.”
“I just want to say thank you for everything you do,” Marrero replied. “Your lyrics to that song helped me from the day that I was in the hospital all the way to now.”
Marrero survived the June 12 massacre at the gay club in Orlando, where 49 people were killed in the nation’s deadliest mass shooting. He was shot four times in the back and once in the arm, E! News said, but no bullet struck a vital organ or his spinal cord.
“Life isn’t easy and you need [a] little release, through songs, quite possibly,” Perry reflected. “I’m happy to be a joy, I’m happy to be a light, and I’m happy I could be there in my own little way to help you.”
She then surprised Marrero with a gift. “I heard that you’re creative, just like me,” she told him, “and you have dreams and you want to go out there and do good and fulfill them, and I heard that you want to go to film school so I personally want to pay for your first year at film school.”
“Don’t miss these happy tears today!” Perry tweeted Thursday before the episode aired. “I was so inspired by @OnePulseTony story & strength that I had to meet him.”