Pulse Nightclub DJ Remembers Helping People to Safety: 'I Don't Consider Myself a Hero'
"I'm going to keep everybody dancing for the 49 people that lost their lives," Rivera tells PEOPLE
It has been a year since Ray “DJ Infinite” Rivera was spinning records on the fateful night of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.
As 2 a.m. hit on June 12, 2016, Rivera began winding down the night like any other, with reggae music as nightclub patrons paid their tabs and started to call cabs. Minutes later, a gunman entered armed with an AR-15 assault rifle — murdering 49 innocent people and injuring more than 50 in the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.
“The bartenders and me looked at each other, and we didn’t realize what was going on,” Rivera, 43, tells PEOPLE of the moment he heard the shots firing. “Then the second set of shots rang out, and that’s when everybody started running towards the exit and tried to get out to safety.”
Rivera quickly ducked behind his DJ booth on the patio of the club to hide, and a woman and a man joined him for safety.
“When the shots stopped I was like, ‘Come on, let’s go,'” he recalls. “They scurried out from underneath the booth, and I went right behind them.”
Despite the fact that Rivera helped usher those people to safety, potentially saving their lives, he still says, “I don’t consider myself a hero.”
He continues: “I was just trying to get myself and whoever else I could get [to safety] basically.”
Though he took “a week or two off” from work after the senseless attack carried out by Omar Mateen, an ISIS sympathizer, Rivera says he has been able to move forward by staying busy and continuing to do what he loves as a DJ.
“That’s actually what got me through the last year,” he says. “Wherever I’m performing, I’m just keeping everybody dancing for the 49 people that lost their lives.”
He describes being more conscious of his surroundings now, whether it’s while he’s working or just going to the movies with his family.
“When I walk in, I find myself looking at all the exits and security and making sure that it’s a safe environment now,” he explains.
As a husband, father to five kids and grandfather to three, Rivera says the night also changed him in that he doesn’t “take anything for granted anymore.”
“Before I was so busy focusing on work. But now, I take time to spend time with my wife and kids and grandkids and just enjoy that,” he says. “You realize life is short, and you could be here one day and be gone the next.”
Rivera will continue DJing for Pride festivals nationwide this summer and raising money for the One Pulse Foundation through his appearances. When people think of the victims, he hopes they’re remembered for their happiness and acceptance.
“It was a complete shock that it happened in a place of so much love,” Rivera says. “But we’re all pushing through it — one foot in front of the other.”