ORLANDO, Fla. - Gabriel Ramirez couldn’t think.
It was just non-stop gunshots.
But he managed to escape out the back of Pulse nightclub as the deadliest mass shooting in American history started to unfold.
“I dodged bullets. I legit dodged bullets,” Ramirez said. “The only reason I’m alive is because one of the bartenders opened the back fence to the gate and I didn’t stop running. I didn’t look back.”
The 25-year-old Orlando man sprinted to his car.
“I couldn’t stop. I just kept going,” he said. “That could have been me. I could have been on a list.”
Visibly shaken just 48 hours later, Ramirez often broke down into tears Monday as he talked about the night when a gunman unleashed carnage in the gay downtown Orlando club leaving 49 dead and dozens more injured.
“I looked back one time and everyone was on the floor. I thought they were just being smart and thinking ‘I’m going to duck,’” he said. “But God knows if [the shooter] already got to them.”
Completely distraught and sleep deprived, Ramirez wanted to talk to a grief counselor so he had a friend drop him off at The Center, an LGBT community center in Orlando.
And Ramirez wasn’t alone.
The LGBT center has been flooded with an outpouring of community members and volunteers still in shock as they continued to find out more about the victims who were killed and injured.
“Every time I stop and think about it, I break down and cry,” said Joel Morales, an HIV counselor at the center. “But Orlando is strong and everyone is coming together and doing their part.”
The center has been a hub providing grief counseling and a place where members of the community can come together to mourn the losses of their “brothers and sisters.”
“It’s very difficult to see the names posted on Facebook and the familiar faces,” Morales said. “It’s a really difficult time here in Orlando. [But] we are not going to be afraid. Now more than ever, we need to support each other and come together as one.”
Krystal Rosa, 25, sat a table in the back of the center as she made a memorial sign in the shape of a heart.
She and her friends go to Pulse all the time. But last weekend they decided to go to Cocoa Beach instead.
Rosa tried to go to work Monday morning, but it was just too much for her listening to her co-workers talk about the shooting. She told her bosses she was leaving early and sought comfort at the LGBT center.
“We knew people. It could have been any of us,” Rosa said. “We are thankful to be here. … So we just want to give back a little of what was taken away.”