78ºF

Family mourns Orlando massacre victim Cory Connell

Cory Connell was killed in worst mass shooting in U.S. history

ORLANDO, Fla. – For more than 24 hours after the Orlando nightclub massacre Sunday, Amanda Connell didn't know if her brother was dead or alive.  

But on Monday her anguish turned into grief.

They had left the hospital without any updates. They knew a detective dropped him off there. The hospital didn't know his whereabouts. They were waiting at home when two women and a man from the FBI knocked on the door.

Before the gunman walked into the Pulse nightclub, he ran into her older brother Cory James Connell. He shot and killed him, the FBI agent told the family.

"They finally told us," Amanda Connell, 18, said. "He was not coming back."

Cory Connell, 21, was one of the 49 victims of what authorities have deemed to be the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. His girlfriend, Paula Andrea Blanco, was one of the 53 wounded who survived.

Police killed the gunman, Omar Mateen, raising the number of fatalities to 50. 

Amanda Connell said she was supposed to have joined her brother and Blanco that night, but he changed his plans at the last minute. She stayed home.

Cory Connell's last words to his sister were "I love you." She said she is glad her response was "I love you too." Trying to stay strong for the family, she said, means that she cries in private and focuses on "positive" memories.

"He was able to graduate from college and he just celebrated my graduation," she said.

At the entrance of the family home, the family had childhood pictures of Cory in his football uniform. After graduating from Edgewater High School, he graduated from Valencia College. He was training to be a firefighter. 

He worked at a local Publix and was also an assistant coach for Orlando's Women's Football Alliance. Blanco plays for one of the teams. 

Aside from Amanda, his sister Ashley Connell and his brother Ryan Connell survive him.  A family friend set up a GoFundMe account to help his family.