Remembering the mom of 11 killed in Pulse: ‘She took a bullet for her son. She lived for her children’

Posted at 2:12 PM, Jun 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-14 23:36:45-04

NORFOLK, Va. - It has been a tough few days for Mariela Crespo-Williams and her family. Brenda Lee Marquez McCool was her cousin and one of the 49 people killed in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. Crespo-Williams describes McCool as a mom who loved her 11 children unconditionally.

"She took a bullet for her son. She lived for her children," said Crespo-Williams, who woke up Sunday to the heartbreaking news.

When she saw McCool had been shot, she grasped for answers and reached out to McCool's oldest daughter Callie.

"She responded a couple of minutes later. She said 'Titi, Mommy is gone.' And so I said No," said Crespo-Williams.

McCool went out dancing Saturday night at Pulse with her 21-year-old son Isaiah Henderson, who is gay. Henderson survived the shooting.

"She loved to dance. There was a joke between us, I always used to tell her you even dance to the music of the commercials," said Crespo-Williams.

McCool was devoted to her children. McCool and Henderson often went dancing at Pulse.

"When I heard the story that she was there and she saw the shooter point the gun at Isaiah, she pushed him and said get down and he just shot her. I said that`s Brenda," said Crespo-Williams, who wants the world to know what an amazing mother McCool was.

McCool had also already fought the battle of her life -- twice. She beat two bouts of cancer -- breast and bone -- so it was especially devastating for friends and family when they learned she was killed in the Orlando nightclub shooting.

"She just went out last night and said goodbye to her children" said Marshall, who started a GoFundMe page seeking donations for the family.

McCool's last post on her Facebook page is a video she put up a few hours before the shooting -- people dancing the night away at Pulse, unaware of the horrors that await.

Family friend Wilson Cruz paid tribute to her on social media as a "fighter," noting the battles she had won over cancer and her advocacy for the LGBT community.

And wow, could she dance, they said.

"She was hilarious and loving and tore up the dance floor when salsa or anything was playing," he said. "I can't believe she's gone."