McCool went to Pulse on Saturday night as she often did, with her 21-year-old son, Isaiah Henderson.
It was a favorite spot for the pair: He’s gay, and she still loved to dance — despite having 11 kids and beating cancer twice, Marquez McCool’s oldest daughter, Khalisha Pressley, told NBC News.
At 49, she’d been married a few times, and earlier in her life, she'd moved from New York City to California. In 1985, she met Robert Vince Pressley Sr., who was serving in the Air Force in San Bernardino, and the couple got married and had two children, including Khalisha.
They only stayed together for four years, but they stayed in touch, talking as recently as last Thursday, Robert told NBC News. "She was a good mother [and] a good provider," he said. "She was always trying to help people, taking people in who had no place to live."
Marquez McCool eventually ended up single and living in Florida with six of her children, the youngest of whom was 12, Khalisha said.
"She was always really cool, but really a mom at the end of the day," she said — "the sweetest lovingest person in the world."
Early Sunday morning, Henderson dialed Khalisha immediately after the shooting. He was screaming, she said.
He survived, but his mother did not.
"He had to watch his mother die," she recalled. "He saw everybody getting killed."