Tiara Parker Says Family Hasn’t Spoken To Her Since She Survived Pulse Shooting And Cousin Didn’t
A year ago today, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who swore allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, carried out a terrorist attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. He entered the club, shooting and killing 49 people. He also injured 58 in the deadliest terror attack since the attacks on September 11 2001 and the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. One of the injured was Tiara Parker, who was 21 at the time of the shooting.
She went to the nightclub on June 12, 2016 with her cousin Akrya Murray. Murray, 18, had just graduated from high school and was set to go to college with a full scholarship in the fall, according to her mother. She was excited to celebrate her success by going out with Parker. Sadly, she would end up being the youngest victim of the Pulse nightclub shooting. Murray managed to get out of the club safely when the shooting began, but when she didn’t see Parker, who ended up with a wound to her side, she ran back inside and was shot.
Days after the shooting, Parker, feeling survivor’s remorse, told NPR, “She came back for me, and I kind of wish she’d stayed outside.”
But on the one-year anniversary of the shooting, despite the horror of that night and everything she witnessed, Parker says she’s doing “really well” and is thankful to be alive.
“Orlando happened and it was sad what happened to everybody, but Orlando is not going to define me,” she told PEOPLE. “It was a major setback for me and my family, but I am doing really well. I feel better, I look better … I feel good.”
But the parents of Murray, Parker’s aunt and uncle, have ceased communication with her.
“It was really sad what happened to all of us that night, and I wish there was a way to go back and replay it, because I miss my cousin so much,” she said. “It was a very stressful time and now, my family has stopped talking to me.”
Parker told the magazine that ever since they found out that their daughter, with such a bright future ahead of her, didn’t survive, they’ve placed the blame on her. It’s a sad situation, but she doesn’t hold it against her family members.
“They had to find someone to be mad at,” she said, “and instead of the man who did it, they’re mad at me.”
But Parker is trying to move forward with life. She wants to “keep on pushing” and do so for Akrya Murray.
“I miss my cousin but at this point, I know she is in a much better place,” Parker said. “I am at peace with that. No one can harm her anymore, so why should I stress?”