— -- Cory Connell loved football and fast cars, but above all else he loved his family. He bagged groceries at Publix while chasing his dreams of becoming a firefighter.
His siblings say, "He was our superhero."
At 21 years old, they said Connell was the kind of guy who made everyone laugh, who would take his teenage sister shoe shopping for the prom, who happily went dancing with his girlfriend Paula Blanco and her all-female football team for a night of celebration at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
"It doesn't affect him, if you're gay, straight, black, white, green, orange, purple, red, none of that matters," said his brother Ryan Connell. "All that matters is your character."
When the gunshots rang out at Pulse nightclub early Sunday nightclub, Cory's girlfriend was shot in the arm, but instead of running as she yelled at him to do, she told his sister Amanda that he pushed her out the door of the club and was shot and killed. He died trying to protect her.
Blanco is still recovering from surgery on her arm, while Connell's family is trying to make sense of a senseless act of violence.
"I cannot describe how heartbreaking," Ryan Connell said. "It’s like having your heart ripped out of your chest and just squeezed right in front of you knowing you can’t do nothing to put it back in there."