ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - They drank a Thanksgiving toast to family. Brandon Wolf and Eric Borrero were at the table. They were at the Pulse nightclub that terrible night and managed to escape gunman Omar Mateen's bullets.
Christine Leinonen was also at the holiday dinner. Her 32 year old son Christopher and his boyfriend, Juan Guerrero, were among the 49 pulse shooting victims. She says it's terrible not having him there.
“Well, it's really hard to be thankful when... who could be thankful when your only child was so horribly murdered and you want them back more than anything in the world?” Leinonen asks.
Chris was a mental health therapist, who was passionate about helping others. She says the holidays have lost their joy, and she'd happily trade places with him.
“There's nothing I want. Nothing I want or need or am excited about,” she says, “the thing I would want is, obviously, Christopher back. Even if he were grieving over me - that would be fine, as long as he got to come back to life and experience the rest of his thirties!”
Brandon Wolf was one of Christopher’s friends. He was in the Pulse nightclub. “You look at other people and realize if I don't leave now then I might never leave,” he says of that night.
He and Eric made it out an emergency exit. He wishes Chris had made it out, too. “For me he wasn't just a best friend, he was an inspiration,” he says, “he was a mentor, and made me feel that no matter what my opinion might be, as long as I had a good reason for having it, he'd stand by my side.”
Leinonen says she's at least thankful to have her son's friends at her side this evening and the support she's gotten from around the world since the tragedy.
“They don't know me, they don't know my pain,” she says, “they can only imagine. And it's only in that imagining that they reach out and want to take some of my pain from me. How can you not be thankful there's that kind of people in the world?”