Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Only God could orchestrate a friendship like this.

Well, so much for the whole not ignoring my blog thing. Oops. What can you do? I'm here now. But last night was a wonderful night that I want to remember.

This is Al. I met him through my buddy August because they're both bouncers at a bar down the block. We've only known each other for a couple of months, but it feels like from the very beginning we've just clicked. He's made me feel so completely safe in a way that most people don't realize is really hard for me to find. Even though until last night we'd only ever spent time in person together standing outside his bar, we've had this connection in talking to each other that can't be manufactured.

He's someone that just shines light. No matter what kind of day I'm having, if I go and see him, as soon as I look at him, and he smiles, I can't help but smile, too. Anyone who knows me knows that a great smile is my favorite physical feature on a guy, but it's so much more than that with him. He shines because of how much he loves people. It's just who he is.

Last night, we just met up for a drink and sat and talked for a little over an hour. I felt like time crawled in the best possible way because it did not feel like it had only been an hour when he had to leave. We talked about everything, our stories, our pasts, politics and my thesis, history, our friendship, more than you could possibly think one could fit in an hour. I think I must have been beaming the entire time. He just has that effect on me. And when we instinctively reached out and grab each other's hands multiple times while we talked, or when he insisted on holding my hand on the way back to my apartment, everything just felt so right and normal and safe.

The craziest thing to me is that he is one of the people I am going to miss the most from this city, yet of all the people I'm really going to miss, he's the one I've known the shortest amount of time. Some people just make sense in your life from the very beginning; it certainly doesn't feel like I've only known him for two months. I'm closer to him than 90% of the people I've met in the past two years. He has done so much good for me in such a short amount of time.

I firmly believe that only God could orchestrate a friendship that has formed and strengthened as quickly as this one has. And while I don't know what the future holds and if or when I'll come back to New York, I know for sure that I am so, so lucky to have found him.

And the best part is that while things are going to change not being able to see each other every week, I know that no matter where we are, this isn't going away any time soon. We've already promised that much, and he's a friend whose promises I can actually trust.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

So then July happened.

Well. Wasn't planning on abandoning my blog for the month of July, but things happened, and I learned that the longer you go without doing something, the easier it is to continue not doing it.

So, let's recap, shall we?

I had a few weeks of seizure hell, but adding yet another medicine seems to be helping. Cross your fingers it stays that way.

I severely sprained my wrist in one of those seizures, which is a large part of the reason why I wasn't blogging, because typing hurts really, really badly and takes a lot of energy.

I'm incredibly behind on my thesis, largely for these two reasons, and it seems like I'm being ghosted by my adviser and department so I can't get an answer on when exactly it's due which is just adding to my stress.

I finally got my surgery set up for August 19th, which is later than the doctor originally told me it was going to happen. I cannot wait for that day to get here because I am miserable from pain.

My depression has been rearing its ugly head for these reasons, but one other one is the biggest reason for it. I'm leaving New York. On August 20th. I don't really have a choice. The financial situation in the family that's been going on for the past year and a half is no longer sustainable, and despite me sending out a crapload of resumes, I didn't get a single callback. So no money. No job. No PhD program acceptance. I have to go back to North Carolina. And I hate it. I HATE IT. I thought when I moved up here, I was finally freeing myself from all of the negativity and drama back there and planned on never going back, and two years later, here I am, headed back to the place I never wanted to live again.

Don't get me wrong. There are things I will be happy about seeing/having/doing regularly again. Like my mom and Blake. And the food. And the beach. And the sports. But the idea of leaving everyone I love here is heartbreaking to me. So I'm really not okay right now. Time is running out quickly in the city I love with people who mean the world to me and it is making me very very sad.

So yeah. That about sums up July. I'll try not to abandon my blog in August.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Wake up, America.

Alton Sterling. Philando Castile.

I won't reiterate the horrific tragedy of what happened to these two men, because it honestly makes me sick just thinking about it and I can't get those videos out of my head.

In no uncertain terms, those men were murdered. And it's heartbreaking. It's disgusting. It's wrong. It's terrifying. It's beyond comprehension.

And it's not going to stop until people wake up to the very real problem of racism that is still rampant in this country. To my friends who are POC, I am so, so sorry. I am sorry for the fear you must feel on a daily basis. I'm sorry for the lack of safety and acceptance you are given just because of the color of your skin. I am sorry for the people who hate you. I am sorry this society is so undeveloped we haven't moved past racism. I am so sorry.

No, I do not hate cops. There are many times in my past that cops have rescued me and loved ones from dangerous and volatile situations. I respect good, hardworking cops for what they do and what they risk. And just like not all men are rapists or misogynists, no, not all cops are bad cops or racists, but you know what? THERE ARE WAY TOO FREAKING MANY THAT ARE. Two innocent black men were gunned down for no reason by white men with badges, men who were supposed to serve and protect them. And cops like this make it really freaking difficult to recognize the cops that aren't like them.

I got backhandedly accused by a woman that I know, whose husband happens to be a cop, of not caring about cop killings because I'm outraged by what these particular cops did. NO NO NO NO NO. Calling cops who execute innocent black people murderers does not mean I endorse the murders of cops. I am just as sad about the snipers who killed cops at a protest in Dallas tonight. Murder is murder. Murdering these cops is just as much murder as what happened to Alton and Philando.

I've managed to lose friends in the past 48 hours because of what I have posted on my Facebook and Twitter over all of this. But you know what? I frankly don't care. I refuse to stay silent when my friend has to explain to her 6 year old adopted from Africa why he'll have to take extra caution not to draw suspicion or negative attention; black children are having their innocence ripped away from them. I refuse to stay silent when I see ignorant comments from police apologists who ignore reality to stay safe in their own bubble where their white privilege is a made up war from progressives and Democrats. I refuse to stay silent when my friends talk about feeling like they need to wear full-body bulletproof suits sos as to not be "shot down like wolves." I refuse to stay silent when I have nightmares about some of my best friends, my brothers, being murdered by cops and wake up realizing that those aren't so farfetched dreams. Silence adds to the problem.

But those snipers in Dallas who shot 11 cops, killing 4 of them and leaving 3 others in critical condition, they are not the answer. They are also adding to the problem.

Wake up, people. Racism is alive and well. Black people are disproportionately attacked by police. Not all cops are bad. No one, cop or civilian, deserves to be murdered. And it's up to us to stop it. Each and every one of us.

How many more innocent people have to die before we wake up and do something about this? I'm scared to see what it will take.

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Saturday, July 2, 2016


I got to talk to my favorite British boy today.

And the best part is that he has a Mac now which means he has a webcam which means I actually got to see his face for the first time while talking to him in I don't even know how long.

But that's not even the really good part. The part that made me feel so good is that I think this is the first time all week that I've really smiled. And by "really smiled," I mean that I was happy enough to forget about everything else that has been weighing me down.

There's more than 3300 miles between us and it's been nearly 8 years since we've seen each other in person, but Jay and I still have this incredible bond that I'm so thankful for. Sure, we've had rough patches and times when we haven't spoken for a bit, but when we do, we just instinctively know how to help each other and what we need. It sounds weird to say this when we have so much time and distance between us, but he really is one of the people I trust most in this world, and I'm pretty sure he'd say the same. I truly don't know where I'd be without him. When I say that my friends are what keeps me going when things are hard, he's included in that.

It was only about 35 minutes today, but this did me so much good. And when I thanked him for taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to get on and chat for a bit because it helped, he told me "anything for you."

I'm so thankful for my British love. I know that this bond is one for the ages. And that is a beautiful gift.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Now, I continue to wait.

I went to the doctor yesterday. To my surgeon Dr. H, specifically.

It was a combo post-op/let's discuss what to do next that won't kill you appointment.

I wish there were more exciting things to update about but my life is pretty much this crap and job searching.

In short, I have to go to a new surgeon, Dr. B, because Dr. H does not do open abdominal surgeries, and there's not a snowball's chance in hell we're trying a laparoscopy again.

Dr. H is going to call Dr. B this week and inform him on my case and the whole cardiac arrest thing. She's also going to see if there's any way I can get in to see him before next Friday the 8th, when I already have an appointment set up, but that's not a guarantee.

So I'll see him, then set up a new surgery for as quickly as I can get fit into his schedule.

The only unnerving thing about the whole appointment was that I learned my heart was actually stopped closer to two minutes than one, but what can you do? I am alive now.

After that, I went to my regular women's health care doc at the student health center to get the referral for the new surgeon, and I begged her into giving me some Vicodin because I almost passed out in Dr. H's office because of the pain from this week.

I know July 8th isn't really that far away, but I'm so tired of living in this pain all the time. And I'm just praying that it doesn't take weeks for Dr. B to get me into his surgery schedule.

Wishing and hoping and thinking and praying and waiting.

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Not My Time Yet

The surgery on Monday didn't go like we planned, to say the least.

And by that, I mean they couldn't even do the surgery. Because it was a laparoscopy, the first step was to inflate my stomach with gas. Usually, when they do this, a patient's blood pressure and heart rate slowly decrease to a low level and remain there during the surgery.

Well, with me, the queen of freak extreme reactions, my heart rate went from 60+ to 0 in just a few seconds.

Yeah, zero.

I flatlined.

I was clinically dead for about a minute, until they managed to restart my heart with drugs and chest compressions.

Needless to say, they stopped the surgery there. I woke up from the anesthesia as they were wheeling me to the post-op, and I remember my first thought being "I should be in a lot more pain than this." Not long after that, the anesthesiologist started talking, and I could only catch bits and pieces of what he was saying, but those bits and pieces were plenty.

"couldn't do the surgery" "heart stopped" "a minute" "epinephrine" "chest compressions"

It's hard enough to figure out where you are when you're coming out of surgery. That's one hell of a wakeup greeting. I immediately started sobbing, but they had an oxygen mask on me, so everything was super dry, so there were no tears, just my whole body shaking. It was...not pleasant. Holly could barely speak when they brought her in there and I told her what happened.

They kept me overnight to monitor my heart and run a couple of tests, just to make sure that my heart was okay and that this was indeed just a rare extreme reaction to the gas. I figured it would be, because I've never had a problem with my heart, surgically or otherwise.

Once I got upstairs, I had to deal with this crazy old lady roommate, so it was about an hour before they moved me and I actually got somewhere comfortable. She was screaming because some friends of mine from church called to pray over me, even though I had headphones in and was speaking barely above a whisper. The nurse was in and out doing things, so I even confirmed with her that I was not being loud (because I know that sometimes I can be without realizing it), and she looked at me and mouthed "No, I'm so sorry." So they moved me to a different section of the floor where I didn't sleep (because I never do in hospitals more than a couple hours) but I at least had some peace and could talk to people without being screamed at. Hospitals make me incredibly anxious when I'm there alone. I was not going to apologize for talking to my people.

The best part of the whole time was getting to FaceTime with two of my soccer boys. They were so, so sweet, and it was really humbling to see how worried they were about me. Don't get me wrong; obviously, I knew they love me, but I just never really thought about how important me being in their lives is to them.

The first one told me that losing me was something he didn't even want to think about as a possibility, and so I just tried to reassure him like "Hey, I'm right here. I'm fine. I'm right here." I was kind of cracking jokes and trying to laugh it off because that's generally how I process stuff like this at first, and he said "You're suppressing the emotions, aren't you? This is the last thing you should be laughing off." I told him that if I didn't laugh, I'd cry, and not long after that, he started crying. That broke my heart. This kid is the type of guy who is always Mr. Stoic, cool, it's all good. The only times I've seen him remotely upset outside of a soccer game loss are the first time he saw me have a seizure and the night he found out I got bullied. So to see him that emotional just at the idea of something happening to me was so, so humbling. The cutest part was that he was practically falling asleep while on FaceTime, but he refused to hang up until he knew that the second guy was awake and was going to call me. He told me "I can't leave you alone right now," but I think that was more for his own sanity than it was for me.

The second brother called me while I was saying goodbye to the first one, and I ended up going out in the hallway to talk to him because at this point it was really late. He told me some of the same things the first one did, about how badly it scared him when I sent him the first text about my heart stopping. He said he and the first guy (they're close friends) had texted each other when they first got my message freaking out. He told me that he refused to let himself cry all day until he got to talk to me because he thought that if he did, he wouldn't stop. That made me feel so bad for scaring them like that, but again, it was just so humbling to hear that stuff from him, about how losing me or something happening to me would kill him. He told me some of the reasons why I was so important to them, and it was honestly so mind-boggling to hear it spelled right out for me. Like I said before, it wasn't that I didn't know they love me, because of course I do, I just didn't really realize how important having me in their lives is to them. They really would miss me if I was gone, and that's something that is incredibly humbling for me, especially because I spent so long before I met these boys really feeling like no one would care if I disappeared. I'm so lucky to be so loved. Anyway, this second brother and I basically spent the rest of the time just cracking jokes and laughing with each other, which is the norm for us, I think because he just didn't want to let himself get emotional over what happened.

I texted them the next morning to let them know nothing had happened overnight, and they told me thank you. Not even kidding.

Tuesday was when the reality of it all really sunk in for me. I mean, I had the words of the anesthesiologist ricocheting around my head all night (I only slept about two hours), but it still sort of  seemed like a dream. No one really wants to think that would happen to them. I broke down crying after I talked to the doctors because it was sinking in for me, but my nurse gave me a hug and helped me calm down. And when I was getting the echocardiogram (basically an ultrasound of my heart) and the tech doing it said that "asystole" was in the order for the scan I was sort of like "Oh crap, this is real. This really wasn't some bad dream."

I got home at like 6:30 on Tuesday, and I was so physically, mentally, and emotionally drained that I basically just collapsed in the chair and didn't move unless absolutely necessary for the next three days almost. Everything about me was exhausted in every sense of the word, but because I was finally in the comfort of my own home and had peace and quiet, the nightmares came out.

All I could think when I was awake about was the fact that I was dead for a minute and barely more than 24 hours after the fact, I was home almost as if nothing happened.

And when I sleep, I've been having variations of the same nightmare: people are nonchalantly telling me I'm gonna die soon and there's nothing I can do about it, and I just keep saying over and over again, "I don't wanna die. I don't wanna die."

You know, I think I do a pretty good job most of the time at accepting the difficulties of the life that I have. A lot of the time, I can even honestly say that I'm grateful for it, because of the ways that I know it has helped people and given me ways to support others through their own struggles. At those points, it's easy for me to focus on the purpose that my life has.

But this week, I've really been struggling with understanding what the point of what happened on Monday was. Why did I need to have another near death experience? This was supposed to be a relatively minor surgery, compared to a lot of the other ones I've had. Is it not enough that I have all of these medical problems to deal with? Does treating them really have to be so freaking complicated, too? Isn't the story I have to tell great enough?

Basically, I'm at that point where I just really wish I could get a break from having to fight so hard to do the most basic things. I don't like feeling or sounding self-pitying, but that's the truth. I'm tired.

So little of this makes sense right now. I feel like I could be handling it a lot better if I just had a little bit of a clue as to what the point is. I know that God's ways are greater than mine and I'm not always supposed to understand, but I'm kind of going, "Can't you just give me a little bit of a clue?!" right now.

It's not a matter of me doubting my faith or anything like that. I know that God is good and faithful as much now as I ever have, and I am so, so grateful to have made it through that surgery alive.

I'm lucky to serve a God who is greater than medical standards and explanations, because God has made it clear that it's not my time to go yet. I guess that, for now, all I can do is try to make the best of the extra chance I've been given.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Love and Prayer

I made it through today without a seizure.

I think God knew how much I really needed to hear the sermon. It was on the power and importance of prayer.

And between today being Father's Day - and the fact that having my birthday, the anniversary of my dad's death, and Father's Day all in the same week can be emotionally draining - and having surgery tomorrow, I really needed to be in God's presence with my church family.

I was getting choked up during the sermon for some reason, and my friend Dorothea could tell something was up with me, so she just reached out and held my hand for the rest of the time Pastor Ben was talking.

But the most beautiful part of the day came after the service. A group of 9 or 10 of my friends literally surrounded me and covered me in prayer for my surgery tomorrow. The anxiety has been bad, so the fact that they were willing to do that meant so much. It was a beautiful reminder of not just how truly NOT alone I really am, but also of God's presence in the midst of all of this and with me as I head into surgery tomorrow. He showed me how much He loves me through them and the way they love me.

They are my people, and I am so lucky to have them. My prayer is now that I can love them (and others) the way that they have loved me. Deeply, selflessly, unconditionally.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Made it through another year.

Sometimes I just sit and stare at his picture. Trying to memorize his features. Hoping that maybe, if I stare long enough, I'll remember what it was like to see him in person. Wishing that pictures weren't all I have to go on for the person who is literally 50% of me. I miss him, even after 17 years. I don't think I'll ever stop, and I hope I don't, because his death is something that defined my view on the world and on relationships. I don't want to forget the little bit I have to hold on to. I can't change what happened, no matter how much I wish I could, so all I can do is hope and pray that he can see me and that I'm making him proud. I love you, Daddy.

RKJ ❤️ 1-29-62 -- 6-17-99 

P.S. Fuck you, cancer.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

24 feels good.

And it was a good birthday, too.

First thing this morning, I got up and went back to the Student Health Center to see a primary care doc other than the one I usually see in order to try to get medical clearance for surgery. Luckily, even though my usual doc was being stupid and giving me trouble and then lied to me, this doc was super awesome and spoke to me for like 10 minutes before she decided she thought I'd be fine and would fax over a clearance letter today. (I even confirmed this afternoon that she did it, so yay. No trouble there.)

I came back and ate a quick lunch and then went to a meeting with my buddy August and his boss. I think they're hiring me for a side job, which, I know, like I really need one more thing to worry about, but it's something I'll be good at and I could really use the money. So we'll see how that pans out.

Holly got home a little after 4:30, went to pay this month's bills, and then we went down the block to this Italian restaurant because I was craving their lemon pasta. My throat wasn't cooperating so I couldn't really enjoy it, but it was still good and it was sweet of her to take me.

After that, we went up to Midtown and saw An Act of God on Broadway. Holly surprised me with tickets. It was absolutely hilarious. Granted, as a Christian, there were pieces of it that I found slightly offensive, but I kind of figured that would be the case when I walked in. It was overall so, so good, though. I could not stop laughing. I've loved Sean Hayes, the star, since he was on Will & Grace way back when, and he was perfect in this role. We were a few minutes late because of traffic, so when he saw us being led down the aisle by the usher, he totally called us out. And I loved every second of it.

Then, we came back down to our neighborhood and had a couple drinks.

Finally, around 10:00, August and his girlfriend came over and ate ice cream cake with us. August got it for me for my birthday, and it was delicious. We ate and hung out and talked and I may or may not have rapped for them until about 11:20 when August was about to pass out on our couch.

I also got phone calls from some of my favorite people throughout the day, and like 15 minutes after August and his girlfriend left, Tunji FaceTimed me and we spent like an hour and a half basically just laughing at each other's jokes. It was a perfect ending to the day.

Here's to chapter 25.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I can't sleep.

As soon as I think I'm tired enough to actually sleep, I start thinking about Orlando again, and it doesn't stop.

All of these mass shootings make me sick, but for some reason, this one has affected me more than any other. Aside from the few hours that I was watching the Tony Awards, I've felt like I've been swallowing a lump in my throat and fighting back tears every second since I woke up Sunday morning and saw this terrifying news.

I think I was in shock at first, but as I read more details, it began to sink in.

And then the numbers came out. And the names. The names of the forty-nine people taken in this violence came trickling in, and it became very, very, sickeningly real.

It's one thing to know people died. It's another thing to see their faces and learn their names. To stare at their pictures and have it punch you in the face that these really were actual living, breathing human beings with real lives and loves and dreams, not just a story on the news.

I think about the one victim, Eddie Justice, who, while trapped in a bathroom by the gunman, texted his mother begging her for help. One of the last messages he sent her was "I'm gonna die." Can you imagine getting a text like that from your child? In the middle of the night? When you had no idea anything could be going wrong?

I think about the investigators who had to walk through that nightclub. As was told to CNN, they had to walk through scores of dead bodies listening to phones ring as family members and loved ones called desperately trying to check on them. And they couldn't touch the phones to turn them off or answer the calls because it was...well, a crime scene. So they just had to listen to the ringing while staring at utter carnage.

I saw a post online where one of the doctors at the trauma center that was, thankfully, only two blocks from the club, who posted a picture of his blood-soaked tennis shoes and talked about what it was like treating fifty-four injured people and how he's keeping those blood-soaked shoes as a reminder of how he felt that night.

Even just writing this out makes me think I'm going to start sobbing. I don't know the last time writing a blog post about a news story seemed to physically hurt me this much. Maybe it's because I have people whom I love very much who are part of the LGBT+ community or Muslim, and I just imagine one of them being inside that club. I don't know. What I do know is that this hurts.

But the one sense of peace I feel is that in the midst of all of this is that there are still stories of love coming out.

There was a security guard at the club who managed to get 60 or 70 (his estimate) out through a back door as they were all crammed into a back hallway, saving their lives before the shooter found them. And all he could say when the news called him a hero was, "I wish I could've done more. There are a lot of people dead."

There are pictures and videos of hundreds of people lining up outside of blood banks for hours in the Florida heat to donate blood. Veterans showing up to give blood. Muslim men, in the middle of their Ramadan fast and at a time when too many people will blame their religion as a whole, coming out in droves to donate. An Orlando Chick-Fil-A spending Sunday (the day they're supposed to be closed) cooking hundreds of chicken sandwiches and orders of fries to give to people waiting in the heat to donate. Women and children, including Muslim women in their hijabs, going around giving food, water, sunscreen, and other help to the people in the lines.

I could write an entire novel about gun control and how the fact that we had 173 mass shootings in the 164 days of 2016 including Sunday in Orlando scares the hell out of me. But right now, I'm tired, and I'm sad, and I'm scared, and I'm trying desperately to hold onto hope that we'll go back to a world where mass shootings aren't the norm - where first graders can go to school, and African Americans can go to church, and family and friends can go to the movies without being scared of being murdered.

I really wish my brain would turn off so I can sleep, but even in thinking that, I think about all the people down in Florida who probably haven't slept since the shooting and are going to be haunted by this. And it makes all my troubles just seem silly.

Lord, be near. I don't know what else to say but Lord, please come and be with the brokenhearted.

These are the brothers and sisters we lost:

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Kimberly Morris, 37
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29, of Jacksonville
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Amanda Alvear, 25
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26
Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Luis Daniel Conde, 39
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Cory James Connell, 21
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Brenda Lee Marquez McColl, 49
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Frank Hernandez, 27
Paul Terrell Henry, 41
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
[one currently unnamed]

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