Patience Murray was one of the survivors of that horrific night in 2016 when a gunman killed 49 people in a nightclub.
Trigger warning: This story contains themes of gun violence that some readers may find distressing
It's five years since the shooting at Pulse nightclub that saw 49 people being killed, Patience Murray, was one of the lucky ones to survive that night. She was just 20-year-old at the time and just finished her sophomore year at New York University. "I felt like I was on top of the world that summer. I was super vibrant and excited about life," said Patience, reported Good Morning America. A night out would change her life forever as a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub and opened fire at random, killing 49 and injured 53 in Orlando, Florida. It was the largest mass killing of gay people in American history, and also one of the biggest mass shootings in the United States history. "There will never be a point where I'm done learning or done healing," said Patience, referring to that and the trauma that has followed since. It was also a night that will lead her to the love of her life.
Patience Murray had stayed with a friend, Tiara Parker, as she completed an internship with a local TV station in Philadelphia in 2016. Later, that summer, she was invited to spend a week with Parker's family in Orlando, Florida, where they were holidaying for the summer vacation. Along with Parker, and her 18-year-old cousin, Akyra Murray, Patience planned to have a girl's night out. They turned to Google for suggestions and headed to Pulse nightclub. She hit it off with Parker's cousin Akyra from when they met and were having a great time. "I was having fun that night dancing together and stuff, realizing this girl, we're definitely about to be best friends," she said.
THE 49: Minutes after @NAlvarezWFTV said a rainbow would be a sign the 49 were watching this evening’s tribute, a 🌈 appeared...🕊#rememberthe49 #OrlandoUnited #ThisisOrlando #Pulse5YearsLater pic.twitter.com/RZrZeVAOSm— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) June 12, 2021
The shooting at Pulse nightclub
The night took a dark turn just as they prepared to call an Uber and head back to their vacation home. They heard a loud noise from the adjacent room. They were in a happy frame of mind, and it took a while to process what was going on. "Like we didn't really think that these are gunshots going off in that moment," said Patience. Patience and Akyra had exited the nightclub through the backdoor only to realize that Parker was still inside. They went back in, found her and all three of them followed a group and hid in a bathroom stall. "It had about 20 people in the stall already. We could still hear gunshots going off people screaming," said Patience, recalling how they waited in horror unaware of where the shooter was. The shooter was later identified as Omar Mateen, who told 911 operators that he was shooting people as an act of retaliation for the airstrike killing of ISIL militant Abu Waheeb. He reportedly posted on Facebook, vowing vengeance for American airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
Their worst fears were realized as the shooter entered the bathroom they were hiding in. Patience said it was apparent that they were in an "actual life-or-death situation" as the gunman opened fire in all directions inside the bathroom. The shooting stopped as his gun jammed. He left the stall. Patience realized she had shot in her right leg. her femur had been shattered. The ordeal would last three hours, and Patience was constantly fearing a gruesome end to her life. "It was the longest three hours in my entire life," she said before cops rescued them. She had an operation at the hospital and while she was recovering, Akyra Murray's mother visited her to inform her that her 18-year-old daughter did not make it out of the nightclub alive. She blamed herself for what happened to Akyra and felt she didn't deserve to live.
Today marks the five-year anniversary of the #Pulse massacre.— GAY TIMES (@gaytimes) June 12, 2021
On 12 June 2016, 49 people were killed in a mass shooting inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Five years on, the world mourns the loss of and honours these proud members of the LGBTQ+ community pic.twitter.com/CsjmCW84AY
She headed home to Philadelphia after spending time at the hospital. As she healed physically and mentally from the trauma of that night, she found a friend in Akyra Murray's brother, Alex. The pair had met at the hospital following the shooting. As Alex helped Patience heal from the trauma, the pair grew closer. "It was one of those movie moments," she said. "It felt prophetic. Even though we were both experiencing so much pain, at that moment, you could feel something budding," she said.
Patience said it seemed selfish and insensitive to have love or to find love at a time when everybody was hurting but she knew she loved him. "Alex is really indescribable. ... I think within the first few moments of talking to Alex, you'll feel his heart, you'll feel his soul," said Patience. She moved to Florida to live with Alex Murray. Not long after, Alex proposed her to on the court at a Miami Heat basketball game. They would get married on the field of their hometown team: the Philadelphia Eagles, and they started the ceremony by honoring Alex's late sister Akyra. The couple also documented their journey in a documentary, Sincerely, Patience.
Pulse shooting survivor Brandon Wolf to CNN: "I am existentially exhausted. I am so tired of statements. I am so tired of hashtags and thoughts and prayers. I am so tired of archaic Senate procedure being used as an excuse to do nothing while people in our communities are dying."— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 13, 2021
She has since been dealing with anxiety and PTSD. She is thankful for the support she has had, which included several Facebook groups containing people impacted by the Pulse shooting. With time she has come to terms with what happened. "I have permission to just be happy for my life. And I don't have to feel guilty about having a life and having this life," she said.