Jacksonville native reflects 2 years after Pulse Nightclub shooting

By Ashley Harding - Reporter, Crystal Chen - Assignment editor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville native is sharing his story of survival two years after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.

Rodney Sumter, 27, was bartending the night a gunman opened fire.

He was shot three times. 

“Whenever I was hit in my back, I just felt like I couldn’t breathe at all and I thought I was taking my last breath," Sumter said. "I just had a conversation with God and told him to watch over my kids and family.”

The former Jacksonville University football player spent 16 days in the hospital and the past two years recovering. His right arm was reconstructed and he had a skin graph for the bullet wound on his back.

Over the phone, Sumter explained he’s in a good place now but it took time to get to where he is today. It’s the reason why he won’t be attending a memorial for the victims at the University of North Florida, Tuesday. 

He says it’s just too difficult for him right now. 

“(I’m) doing really well on just taking some time to travel the world and explore the world with all of our work and see what’s out there, things I’ve never done before,” said Sumter.

His children know what happened that day but they don’t talk about it much.

“They kind of look at me like a superhero, which is pretty cool now that they realize that I made it out of something really intense and I’m still here for them,” said Sumter.

The way he lives his life now is different. He encourages others to enjoy every day we are given.

“You could lose your life any given moment. You could be at work at a play, at a festival like what happened in Las Vegas, you never know what could trigger somebody. Just treat everybody with respect and live your life one day at a time,” said Sumter.

49 victims

Pulse victims

Gov. Rick Scott has declared June 12 Pulse Remembrance Day. Many events are scheduled to honor the victims and survivors.

READ MORE: 2nd anniversary of Pulse massacre marked by art, litigation

The memorial at the University of North Florida will begin at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday outside of the Student Union. The names of the 49 people who lost their lives will be read aloud. The memorial goes until 1 p.m. It’s free and open to the public.

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