Out MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts today sat down with one of the headlining entertainers who’d taken the stage at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub June 11, just hours before the popular LGBT club became the site of the worst mass shooting in American history.
Jasmine Jimenez, a transgender Latina and performer known to her fans as Jasmine International, was a headliner at Pulse’s weekly Latin Night and had concluded her performance just a short time before gunman Omar Mateen opened fire in the early hours of June 12, killing 49 people and wounding another 53. Jimenez told Roberts that she lost more than a dozen friends in the unprecedented hate crime — and narrowly escaped becoming one of the victims herself.
After she’d finished her performance, Jimenez stepped outside onto the bar’s patio, and filmed a brief video with some of her closest friends, including Eddie Sotomayor and his partner, Luis.
On Monday’s episode of MSNBC Live With Thomas Roberts, Jimenez told Roberts she was debating whether she should stay and have a drink with her friends, mindful of the fact that she had plans to cook a large dinner for friends and family on Sunday. Then she and her friends arrived at an agreement, Jimenez told Roberts:
“I was going to take my bags to the car and I was going to come back and spend a couple of minutes — 20, 30 minutes — and while I went to the back, get my bag, before I went to the back, Eddie asked Luis to take me to be with me, to walk me to the car and to bring the bag to the car.
“As soon as we get the bag and we walk to the bar again, I told them, 'We'll be right back, and I just walked out.' I didn't even put my hand to the door when I heard the first six shots, and that's when I ran. By the time I throw all my stuff in the car and Luis throws his stuff in the car, the second round came out, and when I looked back, I realized that it was a really bad situation, because everybody was screaming, everybody was trying to run out of there.”
Once Jimenez and Luis ran to safety, the performer says she and her friend continually tried to call Sotomayor. After the first round of shooting, Jimenez says Sotomayor told Luis he was safe. But as the second round of shots began raining down in the packed club, neither person could get through to Sotomayor. Jimenez says that Sotomayor texted his partner and told him not to come back. Sotomayor was one of the 49 people killed in the massacre.
Jimenez told Roberts that she is still struggling with survivor’s guilt, all too aware that if she hadn’t decided to take her suitcase to the car at the exact moment she did, she may not have survived the night.
“I feel guilt because sometimes I prefer that I want to be gone,” she said. “And it's something that I always carry, and I will always carry in my heart, and I will be always asking God, Why me? Why did I need to be in that door, to run out before?”
Watch Roberts’s interview with Jimenez, the first she’s given since the massacre earlier this month, below.