Saturday 17 February 2018

'He was the most intelligent guy' - Trinity student mourning death of friend killed in Orlando

Chris Sarafan, now living in Dublin, was a regular at Pulse night club
Chris Sarafan, now living in Dublin, was a regular at Pulse night club
Jason Kennedy

Jason Kennedy

A Florida man living in Dublin has paid tribute to his friend after discovering he was among those killed in the Orlando mass shooting.

Chris Sarafan, who has been living in Ireland for years, found out this morning that his friend Chris 'Drew' Leinonen was one of the 50 people killed during the Pulse night club tragedy on Sunday morning.

The Trinity College student, who was a regular at the gay venue during his college days, said Drew was a popular and smart person.

"He was a really intelligent guy. One night we talked about Victorian Literature for ages," he said.

"He was the type of guy you could meet wherever and have a conversation with him like you were friends for years."

When Chris (23) heard the news, he was reminded of a promise he made his friend years ago.

"We were talking about the band Girls Aloud. They weren't really big in the States, but Drew told me I should listen to them.

"I never did, but I've been listening to them a lot today. It seems fitting. Sad, but fitting."

Since the tragedy, an interview with Leinonen's mother Christine has been circulating online. In the exchange, Ms Leinonen made an emotional plea for peace.

"Please let's all just get along. We're on this earth for such a short time let's try to get rid of the hatred and the violence please," she said.

Although he knows the video is there, Chris said he is not yet able to watch it.

"I’ve been avoiding watching it. It would absolutely shatter me to watch that," he said.

"It is hard being in Ireland and watching from afar. Certainly there’s a disconnect from my friends in Orlando, but I feel much safer here."


Although he has not been in the area for a number of years, Mr Sarafan said Pulse has a special place in his heart.

"It was the first night club I went to, let alone the first gay club. It was social place but also a place where you could feel safe," he said.

"How could this happen in Orlando? A place that has international connotations as the happiest place in earth.

"I have so many happy memories there. The fact that it has been cast in this light is terrible. It’s made me appreciate the memories I’ have even more."

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. Gunman Omar Mateen opened fire in the popular club. The New York-born Florida resident and U.S. citizen was shot and killed by police after a three-hour siege.

A vigil in memory of those killed during the shooting will take place in Dublin this evening. A moment of silence will be held in Bernardo’s Square beside City Hall on Dame street at 6:45pm today.

The LGBT helpline is a support service that's running a special positive mental health awareness campaign during next week's Dublin Pride Festival.

The number is 1890929539.

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