One of the last things he texted her was ‘I love you’ as he was held hostage in the bathroom the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. And as Mina Justice said goodbye to her son Eddie, one of the 49 killed in the worst mass shooting in US history, on Saturday the devastation was too much to bear.
The shattered mother collapsed at Eddie’s open casket funeral. Relatives caught her before she fell to the ground and called 911. Mina was strapped to a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance.
Eddie, 30, had only been in the club for a few minutes when the Orlando shooter barged in and showered the nightclub with bullets.
He had made the last minute decision to head to Pulse’s Latin night with two friends, including Demetrice Naulings, in the early morning of June 12.
They walked in just before last call, hearing the gunfire as they danced on the floor. The music was turned off and suddenly the club filled with silence.
‘You could hear bullets hitting the ground,’ Naulings told the New York Times. ‘You could hear a clip being taken out and hitting the floor and him putting a new one back in.’
Naulings, Justice and their friend began to run, first seeking cover inside the women’s bathroom before they realized it would leave them trapped.
They then headed through a narrow hallway where there was a side door that would take them outside, to safety.
‘Eddie looked at me, and the image in his face I will never forget, will haunt me for the rest of my life,’ Naulings told CBS News.
‘He looked at me and he just said, “Take care of me, please don’t leave me’. He knew I was going to take care of him, because he was more than just a friend. He was like a brother.’
‘I said, “I’m not going to let go, we’re going to get out of here.’”
But it was complete chaos.
The friends lost each other in the darkness. Naulings saw a woman get shot right behind him, people trampling over her and they all tried to run to the exit door.
He immediately reached out to Eddie on Snapchat after he made it outside, writing to him: ‘Where are you? The police are outside. Send me a message back.’
‘I’ve been shot. I’m going into shock,’ Eddie replied. ‘Please tell them to hurry up. Call the police.’
Naulings wasn’t the only person Eddie was texting that night. He told his boyfriend, Alejandro Ortega, ‘I love you baby’ and began to send his mother, Mina, frantic messages.
This was a hate crime on people, not just gay people,’ Naulings said. ‘We were never a disease or abomination. We are human. We wanted to be accepted, we were in our safe comfort zone.’
‘This was somewhere we can be us. There is no judgment when you enter somewhere you are safe at, it’s like your home.’
Naulings said he will continue to speak about Eddie, to make sure his friend didn’t die in vain.
‘I’m speaking for people who won’t have a chance to have a life ever again,’ Naulings told Orlando Weekly.
‘I’m speaking for my best friend, who was supposed to speak for me.’