Pulse Shooting Survivor Offers Healing Advice Following Las Vegas Massacre
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
For survivors and their families in Las Vegas, the healing process will be long and complicated. Neema Bahrami knows what it's like. He was a manager on duty at Pulse nightclub in Orlando when a gunman opened fire. Forty-nine people died. Dozens more were wounded. That was in June 2016.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Bahrami was not physically injured in the attack, but the emotional wounds are still there even 16 months later. Survivors in Las Vegas are just beginning to heal. So we asked Bahrami to tell us what it's been like for him to get through it all starting from the beginning, the morning after the attack.
NEEMA BAHRAMI: It really felt like a bad dream. And waking up, listening to the TVs just giving the reports of what happened - and it was just very hard for me to process in the beginning because, you know, you're just like, this did not just happen right now. This can't be real. And then when they started listing the 49 names and knowing, you know, every name that was listed was heartbreaking, to see friends gone in a matter of seconds.
MCEVERS: One of those names was particularly hard for Bahrami to see.
BAHRAMI: He was known as Top Hat Eddie. Eddie Sotomayor was one of my very good friends. He was the life of the party because he would always do some kind of practical joke or say something smart. I would always turn around and say Eddie, stop (laughter), you know, because I knew it was going to happen before it even happened (laughter). So you know, for me, it's just - it was an ongoing thing. And they always called him my kid.
So he was actually staying at my house that night, and he came to the club with his boyfriend to see me and for us to hang out for the next day and spend time together. And sitting - literally sitting, taking a moment for myself on the couch the next morning and seeing the first name listed was his - so I miss him. I miss my kid.
SIEGEL: Last week in Las Vegas - a new list of victims and another shooting for Bahrami to process.
BAHRAMI: I felt like when I saw the Vegas headlines that I was reliving Pulse again. And to see that many people, just like the numbers of - that happened at Pulse was just unbelievable to me. You don't want to hear all the should've, could've, would'ves. If you were standing there, if you could have been there, if you would have stayed home - that's not the point. Things happen. So right now they need to hear positive words and positive encouragements that - you know, right now they've lost family members or they're injured. We need to be there for them. We need to figure out what we can do to help them.
If - you know, right now a lot of them are in the hospitals. We were - when we were dealing with the situation, we were trying to figure out what we needed to do in our daily life the next day. How do we pay our rent? How do we take care of ourselves? You know, to this day, we still have family members and survivors that haven't opened up their mail yet, you know? Each person is different. It's a never-ending process. You think about it every day.
MCEVERS: He says talking to a therapist has helped a lot. And he says talking to each other is also important. And he gives this advice for survivors in Las Vegas.
BAHRAMI: Keep in touch with each other because you're a new family now. Don't give up. Love is the answer. If you need us in Orlando, we're here for you. You're not going to not think about it. Unfortunately it's a part of your life. Unfortunately for me, I'm labeled as a Pulse survivor. And that's what I'm labeled as. So you know, we have to live with it, and we have to cope with it. And we have to just figure out how to help others with it. So you know, for me, I've just taken that tragedy and switched it into how to heal people, and that's what my journey has been.
SIEGEL: Neema Bahrami was a manager at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
(SOUNDBITE OF OLAFUR ARLNADS' "BETH'S THEME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.