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Orlando Pulse Shooting 5 Years On

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On Jun 12, 2016, 49 people were killed and 53 were wounded at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. This year marks five years since the deadliest attack on the LGBT community occurred. Like many mass-murders via the use of guns, the Pulse shooting encouraged conversation about gun violence and gun control. However, being at a gay nightclub, the shooting brought to light discrimination against LGBT people. June 12, 2016 was also “Latin Night,” meaning LGBT people of color were especially targeted.

“Gunman Omar Mateen was killed after a three-hour standoff by SWAT team members. He had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State,” according to ABC News.

The Pulse Nightclub shooting is one of many reasons why recording hate crimes against LGBT people is absolutely paramount. California’s state senate recently passed a bill, AB 1094, which aims to track the deaths of LGBT people. Namely, it focuses on the motives behind perpetrators who harm or kill us: hate crimes, even those that lead to death, aren’t always recorded as such. Gay people are being murdered all over the world without homophobic motives being taken into consideration. 

How it’s remembered

The people of Orlando have since shown their support for the LGBT community by memorializing the date of the tragedy with Orlando United Day. Every year, on the 12th of June, there are events to bring Orlando’s community together after the divisive catastrophe. While the events of Orlando United Day were virtual in 2020, 2021 was mostly in-person.

There are multiple initiatives in Orlando leading up to and around June 12. Orlando is encouraged to participate in the Acts of Love and Kindness movement in the 49 days leading up to June 12. OneBlood hosts a blood drive in honor of the victims, considering many required multiple blood transfusions. They offer an Orlando Strong T-shirt and gift cards to those who donate blood. 

On June 12, more than 600 places of worship in Orlando rang their bells 49 times, marking each life taken in the Pulse shooting. The DeLand Pride hosted a remembrance walk, from The Abbey bar to New York Avenue, to read the names of the 49 lives lost. A panel discussion, moment of silence and OnePULSE Foundation Remembrance ceremony followed. The foundation said a memorial and museum are in the works. 

“Speakers at an evening remembrance ceremony on the grounds of former Pulse nightclub said a rainbow appeared as survivors of the shooting, family members of those who died and first responders gathered,” reported ABC News. “The site, south of downtown Orlando, was turned into an interim memorial lined with photos of the victims and rainbow-colored flowers and mementos.”

From those who were there

“I look over, and he shoots the girl next to me,” Angel Colon, victim of Pulse, said to reporters at Orlando Regional Medical Center where he was being treated. “And I’m just there laying down, and I’m thinking: ‘I’m next. I’m dead.’ So I don’t know how, but by the glory of God, he shoots toward my head but it hits my hand, and then he shoots me again and it hits the side of my hip. I had no reaction. I was just prepared to just stay there, laying down so he won’t know that I’m alive.”

Brandon Wolf, who was at Pulse on June 12 with his best friend Drew Leinonen, helped carry Drew’s casket at his funeral. Brandon felt like running away after the tragedy. Instead, he promised Drew: he would “never stop fighting for a world he would be proud of.” He sees June 12 as a date to recommit to taking action. 

“Bigotry and hatred are not asleep. They still move around us,” Wolf said. “And if we are going to snuff them out, we must make the same defiant choice we made on this site five years ago today, and that is to embrace the power of community and reject the temptation to come apart at the seams of our differences.”

Openly gay Orlando Police Chief, James P. Young, reported to Pulse on the night of the shooting. He said he’s seen “friendships strengthen and the community unite” since the mass-murder. “If we use our shared experiences and our shared values, including those of strength and unity, love will always win,” Young said.

AJ Kelly

Contact AJ at [email protected] or view the rest of her work on aj-kelly.tumblr.com

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