Alejandro Francisco is a survivor of the Orlando massacre. He left Pulse nightclub just minutes before the gunman opened fire on patrons, killing 49 and wounding 53.
Among the victims is his friend Stanley, and in an incredibly moving open letter to the killer published in XOJane, 21-year-old Alejandro outlines exactly why hatred will never be able to destroy the LGBTQIA+ community.
Half-Puerto Rican and half-Dominican himself, Alejandro says there was a particularly festive vibe for Saturday's Latin night after the recent Puerto Rican Day Parade.
It was a warm Florida evening in the middle of US Pride month and he went to the venue—a place where he feels comfortable and can be himself—with a number of friends. It "was filled with life and love and dancing and — until you arrived — pure joy," he writes.
Listing the names of the innocent people who lost their lives that night, Alejandro says, "These men and women were strangers to you. All of them had one precious gift, one saving grace that you could never, ever have. That much is clear.
"I know you had a child and a wife and a father and a mother, but you did not have what they had. You never could have. What happened never could have happened if you did."
Despite orchestrating the worst mass shooting in US history, Alejandro says, "Omar, you failed. You tried to massacre the very one thing that you can never destroy in our community. Ever.
"You can not take away our love. It is more powerful than anything else that exists in the world."
He goes on to recount the moment he came out to his mother at 16, and saw the unwavering love in her eyes. "I am so sorry you must not have ever had that in your life. Otherwise, I can’t imagine you would have wanted so badly to end mine," he says.
Even Eddie Justice, a fellow Pulse patron who was killed in the bathroom after sending a text to his mum, was able to find love, he says, despite the "violence all around him".
"Omar, we are stronger than your hate. We always will be," he writes.
Listing the names of all the victims who did not survive, his letter concludes: "But love [survived]. In fact, it just grew stronger."
Read Alejandro's full post here.