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: Rodolfo Ayala Ayala
Rodolfo Ayala Ayala was quiet and polite until you got to know him, says his friend Aileen Carrillo.
After going on a cruise with Ayala and a group of friends to Mexico, Carrillo learned he was a funny person who liked to tell jokes and make her laugh. The 33-year-old Puerto Rican native (often seen wearing a bowtie) was always positive, to the extent that he had a hard time listening to his friends complaining.
"He was extremely happy," she says. "He didn't give importance to negative things. Life is hard, and the moments of happiness are few, so he lived it up."
In his spare time, Carrillo says, Ayala liked to bake cheesecakes for his loved ones at his new Kissimmee home and dance to bachata, especially songs from Romeo Santos and Héctor "El Torito" Acosta. But Ayala also worked a serious job as a platelet supervisor in Orlando's OneBlood laboratory, where he was passionate about saving lives.
On June 12, Ayala and a group of friends, including Carrillo's brother Simon, were celebrating at the gay nightclub Pulse. Ayala, Simon Carrillo and the majority of their friends died that morning in a mass shooting.
After his death, his co-workers at OneBlood mourned "Rody" as they tried to deal with long lines of people who stood in the hot sun to donate blood for the surviving victims of Pulse. His friend Juliana Santos said in a press conference days after Ayala's death that she couldn't believe what was happening.
"I want you all to know that Rody was such a beautiful, humble, great person," Santos says. "He was such a hard worker. He was always motivating us. He was the best."
Carrillo says their last messages on June 12 were about their favorite bachata song, "Muchachita Linda" by Juan Luis Guerra. Ayala told her they needed to go out and try new things.
"He told me he missed me, he loved me and that he was here at Pulse," she says. "He was a loyal, beautiful person. I'm so grateful I was his friend and that we got to say goodbye."