By Chelsea Lacey-Mabe
ORLANDO, Fla. (CBS) — “As an artist I felt compelled to create something, for myself and for my friends,” said Kelly O’Brien who spent hours over several days drawing the faces of the 49 victims who lost their lives in the Pulse Nightclub shooting on June 12.
O’Brien is a caricaturist in California but graduated from University of Florida in 2014 and grew up in Orlando. On the weekend of the shooting she said she was shaking, worried that her friends who frequent Pulse and another club called Southern Nights were at the club that night.
Through texts and Facebook’s Safety Check feature, O’Brien found out her friends were okay. But many of them had friends themselves or knew people injured or killed in the attack.
In the days after the shooting, millions of people took to social media to show their support for the victims and their families — whether it was donating blood, someone sharing a memory about someone they knew or people turning on the “We are Orlando” Facebook filter. The attack also sparked a gun control debate about semi-automatic weapons.
O’Brien started drawing.
“I looked up Luis, who worked at Universal, first. Then I looked up everybody, I read all their stories. I just started drawing them. Each layer in Photoshop had their name.”
One of the victims was Akyra Murray, a standout basketball star who had recently graduated from West Catholic High. In the far left of O’Brien’s picture, Murray can be seen smiling ear to ear above the “O” and “V.”
O’Brien hoped her image would, in part, make some in the gun control debate reconsider their arguments if they could see the victims’ faces. Her image has been shared over 9,000 times since it was posted yesterday morning.
More importantly, O’Brien, says relatives of some of the victims have reached out to her to tell her how much the drawing meant to them.
“I’m happy people think this is a beautiful way to remember them, hopefully this can bring support to the victims families if a non-profit uses my image.”