Pulse shooting survivor, Jacksonville native shares story

Rodney Sumter was bartending when shots rang out

By Nicole Snyder - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Nearly two months after the mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, a Jacksonville native who survived the shooting is sharing his memories of the massacre.

Rodney Sumter said he was in the hospital for 16 days, and since then physical therapy has been intense. Sumter hasn't let any of that get in the way of his positive spirit and desire to share his story with everyone he meets.

“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 27-year-old was bartending at Pulse nightclub when shots rang out. He said after hiding for some time, he finally made it run for it.

“I decided it was time to go, and I had tunnel vision," Sumter said. "I just kind of sprinted around the corner and went through the exit. I don’t know if there were dead bodies around me, it was really dark.”

Sumter said on his way to get help, Josh McGill gave him first aid until he made it to the hospital.

“It was sad seeing the emotion wear on the nurse’s face, the doctors, the police officers," Sumter said. "There were a lot of tears rolling.”

Fast forward almost two months and Sumter said his recovery is remarkable. His right arm was reconstructed and he had a skin graph for the bullet wound on his back.

Sumter attended the Jaguars scrimmage Friday night. It got the former football player back in the spirit, but he is still learning his limitations.

"I wanted to run around and catch the ball," Sumter said. "It was a tough moment in physical therapy. When I tried to pick a football, I couldn’t grasp it with my right hand.”

When he’s not going through therapy, Sumter says he’s reading the Bible.

"I am trying to be a man of God now," Sumter said. "I have a different perspective on life after that situation and I look at everything in a positive light."

Doctors expect Sumter to make a full recovery.

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