Tony Marrero is doing "better," but better isn't his final destination on the road to recovery.
In fact, the 30-year-old Orlando resident still has a long way to go before the life-threatening injuries he sustained during the June 12 shooting at Pulse nightclub will have healed, and that's to say nothing of the emotional trauma and psychological scarring he has had to grapple with since that night. But Marrero has decided not to let that stop him from sharing his story on tonight's episode of the MTV docu-series True Life.
"If I can make it through this, you can make it through any situation you're going through," Tony told me over the phone. "My goal is to recover 100% mentally and physically. It's going to take a while…but you've got to keep going. Just be strong, and keep going. We have to move forward from something so tragic."
The True Life episode, titled "We Are Orlando," follows the lives of four survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting, which left 49 people, most of them LGBTQ Latinxs and people of color, dead and another 53 injured.
Viewers will meet Patience Carter and Tiara Parker, two vacationers from Philadelphia who became trapped in the club's bathroom during the shooter's hours-long standoff with police; Joshua McGill, whose fortunate escape from the venue allowed him to save the life of a gravely injured bartender, Rodney Sumter; and Tony Marrero, whom the gunman shot four times during the massacre.
Marrero, who moved to Orlando a year ago from Puerto Rico, lost his close friend and fellow Universal Studios coworker, Luis Vielma, in the attack. On tonight's episode of True Life, Tony returns to Pulse for the first time since the shooting to honor Luis at the memorial that has since sprung up. He also meets with Angel, a fellow survivor, who understands what he's been through firsthand.
Tony, who used to love to go out dancing before the shooting, said that he spends most of his time at home watching movies while he focuses on his recovery. He has not been able to see all of the "very, very sweet" people in his beloved community as often as he used to, but social media has helped fill that gap over the past two months.
"[It's like] the whole community is behind you," he told me. "It was amazing getting messages from a lot of people from all over the world… Our community can make a difference."
"We don't need to wait for a tragedy to come together," he said. "[It's] something we need to learn to do on a daily basis."
"True Life: We Are Orlando" premieres on Monday, Aug. 15, at 8 p.m. ET on MTV. If you would like to help Tony Marrero pay for medical bills, counseling, food, and other expenses, you can donate to his GoFundMe account.
Bad at filling out bios seeks same.