Every week between now and the one-year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shootings, Orlando Weekly will profile a person killed on June 12, 2016. This week: Mercedez Marisol Flores
In her photos, Mercedez Marisol Flores looks quiet and introspective. By day, the 26-year-old of Guatemalan origin from Queens, New York, worked at Target and attended Valencia College. But at night, her friends remembered her as a music lover who blasted any genre on the radio and wanted to become a party planner.
Josean Garcia remembers meeting Flores and their mutual friend Amanda Alvear in middle school. At Ridge Community High School in Davenport, Florida, their friend group was known as "the Hyenas" because they were always laughing loudly in the lunchroom. After they graduated in 2008, they started going to the gay nightclub Pulse together, he says. It was a place where they all felt safe, even if Alvear and Flores were not gay themselves.
Three of the Hyenas went into Pulse on June 12, but only one emerged. Garcia says he was in a different part of the club, away from Flores and Alvear, when the gunman started shooting, and he was able to escape. He later found Flores and Alvear on the victims list.
Garcia says Flores would accompany him on the weekends to clubs where he worked as a DJ, something her brothers also did. His best memories with her are traveling to new places as he focused on his musical career.
"She was very supportive," he says. "Everybody loved her, and she stood out because of her love for other people and the support she gave everybody, especially me and her brothers. She was really beautiful."
Her brother Cesar Flores described her the day after her murder as a "beautiful soul" on Facebook.
"This morning we were woken to the horrible news that my baby sister Mercedez Flores is no longer with us," he said. "It is not fair that such a horrific act of hate would take the life of a beautiful soul. No words can describe the pain my family is going through. Marisol, I love you. My little baby sister."