ORLANDO, Fla. (WFLA) – They drove through the darkness in the overnight hours, longing for answers. In her hearts, Julissa Leal and her mother, Esmeralda, knew what they’d find when they reached Orlando.
But, they prayed their fears would not be confirmed upon arrival. They hoped that maybe, just maybe, their loved one, 27-year-old Frank Hernandez, was alive. Maybe he survived, they thought.
“You just want, I don’t know how to explain it; I just want to find my brother,” Julissa told News Channel 8.
Her mother felt an ache that only a mom knows, an uneasy feeling like no other. “I knew something happened because he never answered the phone, and he … We’re still trying to get information,” Esmeralda said.
The two drove non-stop for hours from Lafayette, Louisiana to Orlando. They wanted to see Frankie’s smiling face when they arrived.
“Just pray for us and my brother, that he’s okay,” Julissa said.
In the end, Julissa and her family had their worst fears confirmed.
“I don’t want to believe it, but he’s gone. There’s nothing we can do now,” she cried. Julissa and her family are now preparing to bring Frankie home.
Other families also arrived, anxious for answers. However, many of them were scared to hear what they knew in their hearts to be true.
“Most of the families that are here today have come here because they’ve been notified that they have lost their loved ones,” Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said. “They need guidance; they need prayers.”
Governor Rick Scott was among those offering prayers and guidance to families battling the grief. The governor had tears in his eyes after he spoke with those who lost loved ones.
“So, everybody thinks about their own family, right? I’ve got daughters 31 and 33,” the governor said. “You can’t imagine this happening to them. You just can’t imagine this happening to them, getting that call in the middle of the night.”