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“I instantly thought about the moment we made it outside. I felt like I was responsible in that situation…. I started blaming myself in a lot of different ways,” she said, adding that in the dark days that followed the shooting, she felt like she didn’t deserve to exist.
Patience Carter, a victim in the Pulse nightclub shooting from Philadelphia, becomes emotional after giving her story during a news conference at Florida Hospital Orlando, June 14, 2016, in Orlando, Fla.
Patience channeled her struggles with her survivor’s guilt into a poem, which she read at a press conference at the hospital following the shooting, called, “The guilt of feeling grateful to be alive is heavy.”
“Knowing that people just that I smiled at, people that I waved to, people that I danced with that night that are no longer on this Earth … That was a shocking revelation for me,” she said. “To realize that I’m still here and I was in the same situation as other people, I was in the same bathroom stalls, I heard the same voice, I heard the same gunshots, I experienced the same type of wounds and somehow I’m still here.”
Finding love through loss
Patience went back to Philadelphia after spending a week in the hospital and began extensive therapy on her right leg. While working to physically heal, she also worked to mentally heal from the trauma. She began to confide in Akyra Murray’s brother, Alex, whom she met in her hospital room in the days that followed the shooting.
“It was one of those movie moments,” she said. “It felt prophetic; in a way it felt like destiny, it felt like he was supposed to be there in that moment. And I was supposed to be there in that moment, even though we were both experiencing so much pain. And in that moment, you could feel something budding — like something more positive.”
Alex Murray would often visit Patience at his cousin Tiara Parker’s house, where she was staying for the summer. He would tell her stories about his late sister Akyra, and soon their friendship blossomed into something more.