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June 10, 2017
ORLANDO, Fla. — Leonel Melendez leans in as he sips coffee at his bagel shop here, and politely asks: “What? I couldn’t hear you.” He is deaf in his left ear, and a hearing aid turbocharges his right one. But that’s not all. His vision is faulty. His right foot and his left elbow are stitched up. His left kneecap is far from supple. And the thick U-shaped scar on the back of his head, where his hair won’t grow back, is a permanent reminder of the sharp turn his life took on June 12, 2016.
That was the day Mr. Melendez lay in a puddle of blood on the floor of Pulse, the gay nightclub here, while Omar Mateen, motivated by the Islamic State, randomly riddled clubgoers with bullets from an assault rifle and a pistol. As Latin music blared, Mr. Mateen shot Mr. Melendez four times. One of the bullets slammed into the back of his head, a moment that turned him into a “1 percenter.”
“That’s what the doctors call me,” said Mr. Melendez, a Nicaraguan immigrant and 39-year-old divorced father, summing up the odds of surviving the trauma that put him in a coma for nearly three weeks.