Stories of the Orlando nightclub shooting victims are beginning to emerge, and one of the most memorable has been that of Brenda Lee Marquez McCool.
McCool, who was originally born in Brooklyn, was at Pulse nightclub with her son on the night of the shooting, and what she did to ensure her child made it out alive is being describe as an act of true heroism.
Here’s everything we know about her.
1. She Died Protecting Her Son
McCool was at Pulse nightclub with her son, 21-year-old Isiah Henderson.
As soon as shots rang out in the club, McCool realized she had to protect her child no matter what. When the shooter pointed his gun at McCool and Henderson, she told Isiah to got down and threw herself in front of him, according to The New York Daily News.
McCool did not survive the attack, but her son was able to make it out alive. He would almost certainly not have survived if not for the love of his mother.
“She was shot dead. That’s how much she loved her kids,” McCool’s sister-in-law Ada Pressley said. “If it weren’t for her, he’d of been shot.”
According to McCool’s oldest daughter Khalisha, Henderson feels like his mother’s death was his fault.
2. She Had 12 Kids
McCool’s love of her children extended to her entire family of 12 kids. She had been married a few times, and at the time of her death was living with six of her children in Orlando.
“She was always really cool, but really a mom at the end of the day…the sweetest lovingest person in the world,” McCool’s oldest daughter Khalisha Pressley told NBC News.
Robert Vice Pressley Sr, McCool’s ex-husband, added that she was “a good mother and a good provider…She was always trying to help people, taking people in who had no place to live.”
3. She Beat Cancer Twice
McCool is remembered as a tough fighter, as evidenced by the fact that she beat cancer not once but twice.
“She was a fighter,” Noreen Vaquer told the Orlando Sentinel. “She doesn’t take nothing from nobody.”
4. She Loved to Dance
As reported by NBC News, McCool and Henderson frequented Pulse nightclub, as Henderson is gay and McCool loved to dance.
McCool and Henderson were dancing in the club at the time of the shooting. In fact, McCool posted a lively video from the dance floor at Pulse on Facebook not long before her death.
“She loved to dance,” Robert Vance Pressley told The New York Daily News of his ex-wife. “She was selfless, always giving of herself. All the kids in the neighborhood were part of her extended family.”
Ada Pressley noted that her mother-in-law usually came up to New York every year for the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
“But this year she went to Pulse to celebrate,” Pressley said. “If she’d come to New York, she’d be alive.”
5. She Was A Proud Advocate for the LGBTQ Community
Though not a member of the LGBTQ community herself, McCool was a strong supporter of her son. Actor Wilson Cruz from My So Called Life made note of this in a Facebook post, as McCool was his mother’s stepsister.
Cruz wrote that McCool was “a proud and fierce advocate for her LGBT family. She spoke passionately about how much she loved her children.”
A Go Fund Me page to support McCool’s family has already raised $17,000 in one day.