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Anderson Cooper pays tribute to 49 killed in Orlando attack

New York Daily News New York Daily News 15/06/2016 NICOLE HENSLEY
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CNN anchor Anderson Cooper struggled through an emotional seven minutes while reading the 49 names of those brutally slain in the Pulse gay club attack early Sunday.

“It’s important you hear their names,” Cooper said, choking back tears repeatedly pausing to regain composure during the Monday night report.

He spoke down the road from the bullet-ridden nightclub in Orlando and paid tribute to the victims starting with Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34.

“They’re more than a list of names,” Cooper said. “They’re people who loved and were loved. They’re people with friends, families and dreams.”

The 49-year-old host of Anderson Cooper 360°, who is openly gay, crafted touching snippets of their final hours, passions and beautiful anecdotes from friends and families who knew them best.

For pharmacy technician Stanley Almodovar III, the 23-year-old was “dancing and singing on the way to the dance club,” Cooper said.

He overcame tears while speaking of Juan Ramon Guerrero, who came out as gay this year and introduced his family to Christopher Leinonen — his partner who he planned to marry.

The duo died together in the bloodbath unbeknownst to the Leinonen’ distraught mother, Christine. She rushed to the Orlando Regional Medical Center after the attack sobbing — not knowing if her son was dead or alive.

“Juan came out to his family just this year and was afraid they might not accept him,” Cooper added. “But they did and they embraced his boyfriend as well.”

Cooper stopped to breath deep and exhale while memorializing Martin Benitez Torres, the 33-year-old college student visiting Orlando from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Cooper visibly stumbled on camera while reading one of the last names on the lengthy casualty list — Akyra Monet Murray.

Murray, a recent graduate from West Catholic Preparatory High School in Philadelphia, had a full basketball scholarship to Mercyhurst College.

She was celebrating her graduation with family in Orlando and was fatally shot during the cold-hearted assault at the club.

Wounded and scared, Murray managed to call her mother one last time while hiding in a bathroom stall.

“She was just 18,” said Cooper.

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