In the early hours of Sunday morning, tragedy struck as the worst mass shooting in the United States history occurred at the LGBTQ nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida. An armed gunman entered as the club's Latin night was winding down, taking hostages and ultimately killing 49 people, as well as injuring 53 more. As police begin to release the names of the victims to the public, it's now known that among those senselessly killed was Orlando shooting victim Mercedez Marisol Flores, whose her father described her as "the happiest girl of all time" to the Orlando Sentinel.
Flores' loved ones told The Boston Globe that the Queens, New York, native frequented the nightclub the nightclub nearly every weekend, often accompanied by her best friend, Amanda Alvear. Alvear was also listed among those who died in the shooting. The pair loved to go out with their friends at Pulse, and Flores' sister-in-law Nancy Flores told the Globe that Flores always had a great time meeting new people: "She was very outgoing. She had lots of friends. They used to always meet up at Pulse."
The energy at Pulse was likely perfect for Flores, whose friends say was an avid music lover. She also wanted to become a party planner in order to assist her brothers, who are both DJs, at events. This collective love of music ran through her family.
Flores' aunt, Jennifer Flores, shared her memories of the free-spirited 26-year-old with the Orlando Sentinel:
Whenever I was in the car with her, she always had the music blasting, and I guess she got the love of music from my father and uncle who are DJs. She was just a really fun nice person and cared a lot about her friends. She really did live her life the way she wanted to.
In addition to working at the local Target, Flores reportedly studied literature at Valencia College. "She's a hard worker. She's a hard student," her father Cesar Flores told the media at the Beardall Center in Orlando, the Tampa Bay Times reported. He then gave a heartbreaking correction: "She was a hard student. I'm sorry. She's gone."
Flores' family has received an outpouring of support and kind words from friends on Flores' social media accounts. In one post, Ashley Velez, a sister of Flores' best friend Alvear, said of the young women: "[These] two beautiful souls have been taken way to soon. ... You girls will be missed."
Remembering Flores and the other victims for the things that made them unique is one of the best ways we can honor them during these times. As the names of the victims are released, we must do all we can to remember them for their humanity.