Unfortunately, as we know, there is still a lot of widespread discrimination and hate against the LGBTQ+ community. This homophobia and targeted hate has often led to horrific events, such as physical attacks, beatings, and even mass shootings. Today we remember and honor the 49 lives that were taken during a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12th, 2016. This is known as Pulse Remembrance Day, signed in a proclamation back in 2016.
What Happened on June 12th, 2016?
This day is known in U.S. history as one of the deadliest mass shootings in the country. The gunman, later identified as Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, killed 49 people and injured a dozen more. That night, Pulse was celebrating Latin Night, one of the club’s many theme nights that attracted hundreds of people. The club was packed with gay and straight individuals, young and older, and from all around the world, especially Latin America. What was supposed to be a fun and celebratory night quickly became an inescapable nightmare.
Orlando police first received reports of shots being fired at 2:02am. There was an off-duty officer working at Pulse, who then engaged in a gun battle with shooter Omar Mateen and called for back up. By 2:04am, additional officers had arrived and began exchanging fire with Mateen. Those who were able to run outside of the club did, but that was not the case for many people. Many individuals hid if they could, ran into the bathrooms, and sought any possible escape from the shooter. Some wounded people even played dead on the dance floor, hoping the shooter would not strike again.
About thirty minutes after the shooting started, at 2:35am, gunman Omar Mateen made one of many calls to 911. “I wanna let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings,” he told the 911 operator, according to a transcript released by the FBI. When asked for his name, Mateen responded “My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.” According to the FBI, Mateen identified himself as an “Islamic soldier.”
At 2:48am, Mateen spoke with crisis negotiators from the Orlando police. He went on to have a second conversation with them at 3:03am and even a third at 3:24am. At 4:21am, Orlando police were able to clear a way for some of the people trapped inside the club by dislodging an air conditioning unit from a Pulse dressing room window. As survivors ran outside of the club, they informed the police that the shooter had threatened to put bomb vests on four people.
Around three horrific hours after the attack began, at 5:02am, a SWAT team accompanied by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Hazardous Device Team started breaching the bathroom walls with explosive charge and armored vehicles to clear the way for an entry. When the wall broke, hostages emerged, and so did Mateen. He fired at the police, who fired back. At 5:15am, police reported that the shooter was down.
How We Remember Today
Five years later, we continue to keep these 49 people in addition to the numerous survivors in our thoughts and prayers.
Although nothing can erase this horrible day from history, there are certainly ways to help. The onePULSE Foundation is a nonprofit organization incorporated by the owner of Pulse nightclub, established with the goal of creating a sanctuary of hope and to honor the 49 angels we lost that day. Pride Palace will be donating $250 to this amazing non-profit organization with the aim of supporting this memorial and honoring everyone who was at Pulse that night.
What happened at Pulse nightclub is absolutely terrifying, and we as a community need to come together in these difficult times. We are strong, and we will not be silenced. We will be proud of our identities and fight back against those who discriminate. As pointed out by the onePULSE Foundation, we will not let hate win. Today, on Pulse Remembrance Day, take a moment of silence to honor all of the 49 angels we lost on June 12th, 2016.