For An Orlando Victim, Burial Means A Final Flight Home To Puerto Rico | WBEZ
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For An Orlando Victim, Burial Means A Final Flight Home To Puerto Rico

Ismael Medina and his wife Leticia Padro spent all of Sunday calling their nephew's cell phone from Guanica, a little town on Puerto Rico's southern coast. Their nephew, Angel Candelario-Padro, was in Orlando.

Eventually, they got a call from a friend of Angel's, who said their nephew had been at the Pulse nightclub and had been shot. And that's when Medina, his wife and their two sons packed their bags and took the next flight to Orlando.

"O estaba en hospital o estaba en las personas que estaban adentro fallecida. Y si estaba en hospital necesitaba ayuda," Medina says.

"We knew he was either in the hospital or he was dead in the nightclub, and if he was in the hospital, he needed our help."

But after arriving on Monday, the family learned that their 28-year-old nephew, a nurse and a clarinet-player, was one of the dead. He'd left Puerto Rico for the United States just three years ago, and his uncle is taking him back home in a coffin.

"Como perder un hijo."

"It feels like losing a son."

Media hoped to get Angel back to Puerto Rico as quickly as possible, because that's where Angel's parents and grandparents — overwhelmed by grief — are waiting for him. But Medina also knew his nephew had friends in Orlando and in Chicago, where he lived until a few months ago. So he arranged for Angel's body to be on view in Orlando for two hours.

Angel — who'd been a nurse in Puerto Rico — was getting licensed in Florida. His family draped his stethoscope around his neck.

Gail Thomas Dewitt, the funeral director who's working with the family, says usually she uses a special transport company to take remains to the airport. But she's having her staff take Angel.

"We will be sending him in a hearse, [for] honor, dignity," Dewitt says. "The world is at its knees so, you know, you want to be as loving and thoughtful as possible to diminish any type of grief that the family is experiencing."

Supporting the families of the victims seems to be the focus of many people in Orlando right now. Angel's funeral costs are being covered by a special Florida state fund, and the flowers were donated by a florist. His casket was discounted, and the airline carrying him to Puerto Rico is doing it free of charge.

When he arrives in Puerto Rico, the funeral home in his hometown will take over. It's director, Hector Pacheco, says he and his staff have been preparing to pick Angel's body up at the airport. Angel will have a second wake at the home of his grandparents.

Angel served in the Puerto Rico National Guard and will be buried in the Guanica Municipal Cemetery in the section reserved for service members.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

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