A couple who friends and family say were deeply in love both lost their lives over the weekend at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and now they will be remembered together with a joint funeral.
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, and his 32-year-old boyfriend, Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, were two of the 49 who were gunned down late in the night by a lone attacker, and while services have not been finalized, Guerrero’s father, who has the same name as his son, confirmed the two will be paid tribute to side-by-side in death, as they were in life.
“I think my son wanted to do that. That’s why,” the elder Juan Ramon Guerrero, 61, told TIME in tears. “I don’t care what the people think. I don’t care.”
The couple had been dating for two years and lived together. They were just in the early stages of building a life together when their future was taken from them without warning.
“They were honestly so in love. They were soul mates. You can tell by how they looked at each other,” Aryam Guerrero, the victim’s 24-year-old sister, said. “It’s a little comforting that they died together.”
“If it’s not a funeral, they were going to have a wedding together,” she added.
Guerrero was one year into his studies at the University of Central Florida after completing two years of community college. He worked as a customer service representative for a credit union and aspired to become a financial advisor.
“He was so much love and light,” Aryam Guerrero said.
While Guerrero’s name appeared on an early list of victims following the devastating attack, no one knew what had happened to Leinonen until later. It wasn’t until Monday that his family received confirmation that they had lost their son.
“The moment I heard my mom yell out, we all knew,” Aryam Guerrero remembered of being at the hospital with her family. “I just kept saying, ‘This isn’t real.’ I just didn’t want it to be real.”
A photo posted by Juan Guerrero (@juang0628) on
Ramon Guerrero would have turned 23 in just a few days. “My wife will cook all the food he likes,” the older Guerrero said. “He was a beautiful kid, a hard worker, friendly, sweet person.”
“I lost part of my life,” he added.
It breaks our hearts to learn about Guerrero and Leinonen, whose hopes and ambitions were just like ours, and just like countless other young people.
We will continue to tell the stories of these victims and remember who they were, and what they lost.