One year after the Pulse nightclub shooting killed 49 people and wounded 58 others, a survivor has opened up about the tragic incident and how she's using music as a way to heal.
Patience Carter, who was shot at Pulse, is one of the youngest victims. She had recently completed her sophomore year of college and headed to Orlando for a vacation with her best friend, Akyra Murray. On Carter's first night in the city, she headed to Pulse with Murray and Murray's cousin, Tiara Parker.
"At other clubs we’d been to, people would keep to themselves unless they were dancing. But at Pulse, everyone was smiling and talking to one another," Carter recalls in an article she penned for Teen Vogue. "We were feeling it."
The young women had just ordered an Uber at around 2 a.m. when shots rang out in the club. Carter and Murray successfully escaped through an exit door, but they ran back inside when they realised Parker wasn't with them. After they found her, they ran into a handicap bathroom stall and hid with a group of other clubgoers.
"We were right by the door, and [Omar Mateen's] bullets were coming directly at us," Carter says. "Miraculously, his gun jammed. That’s when I realised I’d been shot in both of my legs."
After police infiltrated the building, Carter was rushed to the hospital where she went straight into surgery. The next day, she received the heartbreaking news that her best friend had died.
"In the hospital, I wrote a poem about the guilt I had for being alive. What if I’d told Akyra to wait outside when I went back for Tiara?" Carter writes. "Putting those feelings into words allowed my healing process to begin."
When Carter returned home to Pennsylvania, she turned to songwriting to cope with the trauma and grief. She wrote a song in honour of Murray, whose brother wrote a poem and rap verse to complete the track, called “Praying 4 Orlando.”
Carter is completing her media, culture, and communications degree at NYU, but she says the physical and emotional pain continues to affect her. However, she's determined to use it to create something positive.
"It’s important for me to put my feelings into songs and turn negative energy into something positive," Carter concludes. "Other survivors will listen to what I create and feel inspired to keep going. I want to make the soundtrack of their healing."