Today is the seven-year anniversary of the deadly mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, USA. It was last call for drinks and shortly after 2 AM, on June 12, 2016, when 29-year-old American born Omar Mateen, breached the entrance of the popular gay gathering place and proceeded to attack the more than 300 patrons inside. Officer Adam Gruler, working off-duty security at Pulse, briefly exchanged gunfire with the shooter and quickly recognized his firepower was outmatched. Gruler called for back up which arrived within a couple of minutes. Some victims lay dead in the club while others texted loved ones and called 911 as they attempted to hide in various spaces throughout the club. Some even used deceased victims to conceal themselves. After a three-hour standoff, the shooter was killed. The tragedy resulted in the death of 49 victims, the shooter, and 68 people injured.
Regardless of his reason or motivation, it is indisputable that Omar Mateen gunned down 49 people in the Pulse Nightclub. They were individuals of various ages, backgrounds, and sexual identity. Pulse was their safe space.
We tend to only focus on those who died during tragedies such as the Pulse Nightclub Massacre. We should also never forget the survivors and the loved ones who endure the pain of the loss each day and especially during commemorations such as this anniversary.
To understand the gravity of the devastation of The Pulse Massacre, please see the interactive portraits created via the Dear World Project. Please take the time to read these stories of Pulse survivors, family members, and first responders.
From that tragedy grew the onePULSE Foundation, a nonprofit established to create a sanctuary of hope and honor and preserve the legacy of the 49 killed, those injured, and countless others affected. On the site of the Pulse Nightclub will be a memorial and museum with educational programs and legacy scholarships.
State flags in Florida have been ordered to fly at half-staff today for Pulse Remembrance Day. This has been done for several years since the incident. It appears particularly hypocritical and only symbolic considering the increased attacks on the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and throughout the country. Especially the attacks through legislation and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to denounce the hateful public protests by White nationalists showcasing swastikas and spewing racial epithets.
Out of an abundance of caution, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts will be the site of this year’s Pulse Remembrance Ceremony in Orlando. Sadly, Florida has become a very hostile place for LGBTQ+, Black people, Jewish people, immigrants, and others. No matter who espouses hate, no matter their station in life and their power to impact our lives, let us remember the words of Pulse Massacre survivor Angel Colon,
Love, hope, positivity.
You’ll be fine.
THE 49 PEOPLE GUNNED DOWN IN THE PULSE NIGHTCLUB MASSACRE IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA ON JUNE 12, 2016.
FIRST ROW (LEFT TO RIGHT) Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34; Stanley Almodovar III, 23; Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20; Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22; Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36; Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22; Luis S. Vielma, 22.
SECOND ROW Kimberly Morris, 37; Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30; Darryl Roman Burt II, 29; Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32; Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21; Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25; Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35.
THIRD ROW Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50; Amanda Alvear, 25; Martin Benitez Torres, 33; Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37; Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26; Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35; Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25.
FOURTH ROW Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31; Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26; Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25; Miguel Angel Honorato, 30; Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40; Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32; Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19.
FIFTH ROW Cory James Connell, 21; Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37; Luis Daniel Conde, 39; Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33; Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25; Jerald Arthur Wright, 31; Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25.
SIXTH ROW Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25; Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24; Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27; Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33; Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49; Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24; Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32.
SEVENTH ROW Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28; Frank Hernandez, 27; Paul Terrell Henry, 41; Antonio Davon Brown, 29; Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24; Akyra Monet Murray, 18; Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25.
Photo: Daily Mail