A survivor of the horrific mass shooting last weekend at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, has a message for the gunman Omar Mateen: Even though he took the lives of 49 people early Sunday morning, hatred will never win.
"I'm a young, gay man who was born in New Jersey and grew up in Orlando," Alejandro A. Francisco begins his open letter for xoJane. "I love my friends, I love my parents, I'm half Puerto Rican, half Dominican, 21 years old, and at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, you almost took my life."
As he goes on to explain, he and his friends had planned to stay at Pulse until closing that night, until his friend suggested they leave a couple minutes early to avoid the crowd of people leaving at once. By the time they'd crossed the street, they could already hear the gunshots.
"I go to Pulse nightclub in Orlando because I feel comfortable there, and I can be myself," he wrote. "Several of my friends were there that night, including my friend Stanley. I will never see Stanley again. You took that away from me."
"Let's call it what it was: the worst attack—on love—on U.S. soil," he continued, listing off all of the people who were killed that night. "But Omar, you failed. You tried to massacre the very one thing that you can never destroy in our community. Ever. You can not take away our love."
Alejandro then tells the story of how he came out to his mother when he was 16, and how she openly and unquestioningly embraced her son for who he is. He argues that Mateen must have never experienced that kind of love and acceptance in his life, or he could never have done something so full of hate.
"In the aftermath of almost dying, of narrowly escaping your wrath, my friends and I have been walking around like zombies all day," he wrote. "We survived, but now all we have are questions. What do we do now? Why am I still here? How could this have happened? And of course—why, why, why do you hate us like you do?"
But even though the killer managed to take away the lives of so many, Alejandro is insistent that love will always win in the end.
"Omar, we are stronger than your hate," he wrote. "We always will be. [The 49 victims] did not survive. But love did. In fact, it just grew stronger."
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.