ORLANDO, Fla. — Leonel Melendez leans in as he sips coffee at his bagel shop here, and politely asks: “What? I couldn’t hear you.” He is deaf in his left ear, and a hearing aid turbocharges his right one. But that’s not all. His vision is faulty. His right foot and his left elbow are stitched up. His left kneecap is far from supple. And the thick U-shaped scar on the back of his head, where his hair won’t grow back, is a permanent reminder of the sharp turn his life took on June 12, 2016.
That was the day Mr. Melendez lay in a puddle of blood on the floor of Pulse, the gay nightclub here, while Omar Mateen, motivated by the Islamic State, randomly riddled clubgoers with bullets from an assault rifle and a pistol. As Latin music blared, Mr. Mateen shot Mr. Melendez four times. One of the bullets slammed into the back of his head, a moment that turned him into a “1 percenter.”
“That’s what the doctors call me,” said Mr. Melendez, a Nicaraguan immigrant and 39-year-old divorced father, summing up the odds of surviving the trauma that put him in a coma for nearly three weeks.
“Losing all that blood, with my head shot, and my brain is not affected at all?” He stopped. “I’m a strong believer in God, faith, your drive and positivity.”
In the largest mass shooting in American history, Mr. Mateen, a security guard who targeted the club on Latin Night, killed, injured and terrorized Pulse patrons for 3 hours 13 minutes before the police shot him dead.
In the end, 49 clubgoers died — 13 of them holed up as hostages in bathrooms — and 58 others were injured. So many people required medical care that the police used pickup trucks to ferry them to hospitals.
One year later, the massacre’s aftermath — filled with moments of anguish and healing for the victims, their families, the city, and its gay and Latino communities — has resonated with touchstones large and small. In the 10 months after the shooting, more than $31 million in donations streamed into the city’s OneOrlando Fund for victims and their families. The former nightclub — a site residents and tourists visit every day to lay flowers, take photos and write messages outside its doors — will be reborn as a memorial and museum.
And Orlando’s gay community, badly shaken by the attack, rallied fiercely, offering help and counseling to victims. Just as important, it extended a strong hand to gay Latinos, who have sometimes struggled with anti-gay cultural traditions and had felt alienated from mainstream gay life. As a result, a Latino gay rights group, QLatinX, emerged.
“Hundreds were traumatized by this, but I am so impressed by the way that everyone has come together,” said Patty Sheehan, a city commissioner, who is openly gay. “This man meant to destroy us and stab at our hearts, and all he did was bring us closer and unite us.”
The shooting also led to frustration and debates about police action, gun control, what should happen to the memorial, how private donations should be distributed and whether the attack could have been prevented.
After the shooting, the Orlando Police Department, which engaged in hostage negotiations with Mr. Mateen, faced criticism about why it waited more than three hours to raid the club and kill him. During that time, wounded people were trapped in the bathroom and more victims were shot. The short answer, the police say, is that officers were told that Mr. Mateen had threatened people with explosives, which he did not have.
A recent article by three officials with the Police Foundation, a nonpartisan group that works on improving policing, said the Orlando police had followed protocol for hostage negotiations. The article in The CTC Sentinel, a monthly publication put out by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, praised the department’s performance amid “chaos and unimaginable devastation.’’
But the writers concluded that new protocols may be required to deal with terrorist attacks, ones that involve more specialized training for police patrols and a quicker response when hostages are present.
James A. Gagliano, a former member of the F.B.I.’s hostage rescue team, agreed, saying terrorists seek to kill as many people as fast as possible. They want headlines, not a deal.
“The ISIS-inspired terrorists of today tend not to be interested in negotiating their way out,” he wrote in The CTC Sentinel, using an acronym for the Islamic State.
Orlando’s police chief, John Mina, said his protocols were constantly evolving to take shifting antiterrorism policies into account. The negotiations with the gunman, he said, bought his department time to rescue the wounded on the dance floor and in other rooms of the club, and to plan its counterattack.
“What happened at Pulse a year ago was the most unique, difficult and complex mass shooting, terrorist-hostage situation that law enforcement has faced in U.S. history,” said Chief Mina, who has been cooperating with the Police Foundation, the group in charge of the after-action report. “There is not a policy or word on a piece of paper or sentence that would have changed the outcome.”
Chief Mina also said the F.B.I. had not yet completed its report on whether any victims had been killed or hurt by police bullets in the barrage of gunfire inside the club. But, he said, the F.B.I. has told him that “to this point there is no indication of friendly fire.”
After the shooting, private donations poured in to four separate organizations. The money was consolidated into the OneOrlando fund and given to those who were in the club. The largest payouts went to families of the dead, followed by people who were hospitalized and then the others. A final audit of the fund is nearly complete, city officials said.
For the first time in such cases, a new wrinkle arose: Gay longtime partners of some of the dead wound up wrangling with their partners’ parents over the OneOrlando money.
“We had probably a dozen claims where this tension loomed large,” said Kenneth R. Feinberg, the OneOrlando administrator, who has worked on other high-profile funds, including ones related to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and on the Boston Marathon in 2013. “In most cases we were able to work it out.”
For some, the money has been crucial in their long recovery.
Mr. Melendez, who received $321,000 and, like other patients, was not billed by Orlando Health, remembers little about that night. He can hear the gunshots amid the thumping bass of the speakers. He recalls screams and his good friend, Javier Jorge-Reyes, telling him, “Throw yourself on the floor.”
That was when Mr. Melendez felt searing pain in his leg. Then he blacked out.
Mr. Jorge-Reyes did not survive. Mr. Melendez spent two weeks in a coma and an additional week drifting in and out. When he arrived at the hospital, he had lost two-thirds of his blood.
His mother, a housekeeper who lives in New Orleans, knew only that he had been at the club and wasn’t answering the phone. She grabbed only her purse and headed for the airport.
Mr. Melendez went unidentified for two days. Officials told his mother that he was presumed dead. His mother knew better. She told them to look for his favorite oversized black watch on his wrist. It was there. She spent six weeks in the hospital with him, praying all the while.
Mr. Melendez, an optimist who has worked 17 years for Gucci, was blessed, he said. He collapsed near the club’s entrance, so he was rescued quickly. The bullet missed critical parts of his brain. His family has rallied during his recovery, which still requires frequent physical therapy for his leg. His 7-year-old daughter, Bella, inspires him, he said.
The police even found his phone, out of hundreds left behind. When an F.B.I. agent handed it to him, his mother cried. The message on its case read: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Frustrations linger, though. He can’t drive yet because of his vision and hearing. He still can’t work. But he pushes himself. He recently attended a wedding in Mexico and a large brunch in Orlando.
When asked about his thick head scar, he is vague. “I had an accident,” said Mr. Melendez, who joined a lawsuit against G4S, the security firm that employed Mr. Mateen. “Or it’s a long story.”
Moments of angst still hit hard.
“Why me, and why did this happen?” Mr. Melendez asked. “I’m hoping that one day, I’ll know. Time heals. Time gives answers.”