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Orlando mom Christine Leinonen: My son 'is always going to be alive in my heart'

For more than a day, Christine Leinonen sat anguished as she awaited word on whether her son survived Sunday's shooting massacre at an Orlando nightclub.

But just hours after telling Matt Lauer on TODAY Monday that she was holding out "a sliver of hope" that her son was alive, Leinonen received word that Christopher, 32, was among the victims of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

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Orlando mom Christine Leinonen learns son's fate: Sadness is 'overwhelming'

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Orlando mom Christine Leinonen learns son's fate: Sadness is 'overwhelming'

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"My heart wanted him to be alive,'' Leinonen told Lester Holt on TODAY Tuesday. "He is always going to be alive in my heart, but I had already been rationalizing that he had to have passed away."

Orlando nightclub shooting: How to help victims and their families

Christopher and his boyfriend, who was among the 49 killed in the attack at the popular gay nightclub Pulse, were in gunman Omar Mateen's direct line of fire, according to friends.

Christopher "died on the floor of the club," Leinonen said.

"If I had known that my son was in the club laying on the floor, I would have gone in myself with no equipment and brought him on my back and carried him the two blocks to the trauma center,'' Leinonen said.

RELATED: Omar Mateen's secret life? Reports say shooter frequented gay nightclub, apps

Leinonen had been keeping vigil outside the emergency room at a local hospital beginning at 4 a.m. Sunday in case her son was among the victims brought there.

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Final Orlando shooting victim identified as more details of massacre emerge

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His two friends, who were in the bathroom when the shooting started and ran to safety, told her they saw Christopher's boyfriend being carried out after being shot, but they did not see Christopher.

RELATED: What we know about Orlando nightclub gunman

TODAY
Christine Leinonen and her son, Christopher. The 32-year-old man was killed in Sunday's Orlando nightclub massacre.

Leinonen and the families of all the victims are now mourning a devastating loss.

RELATED: Orlando mom Christine Leinonen's son listed among victims of nightclub massacre

"I can deal with anger,'' she said. "Anger is easy, that's easy. I just — the sadness, you can't deal with the sadness. Sadness is overwhelming."

Follow TODAY.com writer Scott Stump on Twitter.

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Mom holding out 'sliver' of hope for son missing after Orlando shooting

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Mom holding out 'sliver' of hope for son missing after Orlando shooting

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