It’s been four years since 29-year-old Omar Mateen opened fire with an assault-style rifle in Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. It is the deadliest incident in the history of violence against the LGBTQIA+ community and the worst terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11.
At the time, it was considered the deadliest mass shooting by a single person in modern U.S. history, until October 2017 when 58 people were killed at a country music festival in Las Vegas.
On June 12, 2016, Pulse was holding a “Latin Night,” which meant a significant percentage of the 49 people killed and the other 53 people wounded were Latinx. 320 people were packed in the club, waiting for last call, when Mateen entered the building from the south entrance with a semi-automatic rifle and semi-automatic pistol and started shooting.
The magnitude of this “radicalized hate crime” shook Orlando and sent ripples throughout the world. The response was enormous — Orlando officials held a candlelight vigil at Lake Eola a week after the shooting and 50,000 people showed up. The evil and despicable act blossomed into bringing communities together in its wake.
Last year on the third anniversary of the shooting, U.S. Reps. Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy announced their plans to make Pulse’s previous location a national memorial. The onePULSE Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Pulse nightclub owner Barbara Poma, has worked to raise money to build a proper memorial and museum to honor the victims and their families.
This year, flags throughout Florida will be lowered at half-staff, as they are every year on the anniversary, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has called for a moment of silence at 9 a.m.
Usually, Orlando citizens come together on the night of June 12 to remember the victims, but given the current pandemic, this year the onePULSE Foundation Facebook page will hold a virtual gathering; although the Pulse site will be open exclusively for survivors, victims’ families and first responders to come and grieve in private.
Activism isn’t limited to the frontlines, you can donate to these 15 Black-led LGBTQ+ organizations to help make change.
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