I know we all remember it, it’s only been a year, but we have to talk about it. It’s part of our history as much as any of the other tragedies that came before it. We have to talk about the Pulse shooting in Orlando.
I’m not going to talk about the man who did this — this isn’t about him, this isn’t about giving him attention. While this tragedy needs to live on in our hearts and our minds and has to inform our work as we move our community forward — that monster does not.
It was June 12, 2016 and it was Latin night at Pulse, a weekly event there. And that’s pretty integral to this event. This wasn’t an attack on the entire LGBT+ community. That was an attack on the Latinx members of our community. That intersectionality between two marginalized groups cannot be stressed enough. We’ve all said, since this happened, “It could have been any of us. It could have been me.” I’ve said it, but truthfully, I probably would not have been there even if I was in Orlando at the time. This was an attack on my brothers and my sisters in this wonderful LGBT+ family, and it was a violation of a place I consider sacred and safe, but it was not really an attack on me. That doesn’t make me hurt less, it doesn’t invalidate the fifteen or so times I cried that day or the countless times I cried through the following week, or the tears I cried while I wrote this. It doesn’t take away my grief or my anger or the fear that I felt following the attack — and still feel now.
Last call was at 2 am. It’s estimated 320 people were still inside, music still played. At 2:02 am, Adam Gruler — an off-duty police officer working security at Pulse for extra money — engaged the perpetrator of this attack, but was unable to stop him from entering the club. The perpetrator opened fire inside the club, firing into the unsuspecting crowd. People inside tried to flee the club, or hide in bathrooms or behind bars. A Marine veteran named Imran Yousuf, who was working at Pulse as a bouncer, managed to open a latched door — an act which is credited with saving as many as 70 lives.
The authorities that initially arrived exchanged gunfire with the perpetrator, until they realized he had hostages — roughly 30 people. At that point, SWAT took over and began to negotiate. The negotiations lasted until about 5:02 am, when the perpetrator announced he was affixing explosives to his hostages and intended to detonate them in different corners of the building in fifteen minutes. Authorities breached the building and shot and killed the perpetrator. He was reported dead at 5:17 am.
58 people were wounded. 38 victims were declared dead on the scene, another 11 were declared dead at hospitals in the aftermath. At the time, it was the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter in U.S. history — although it has since been surpassed.
I will be writing a little bit about each of the 49 victims — each one of them should be remembered and each of them has a place on this site. Until I’ve done that, here is a really nice memorial to each of the victims from the Orlando Sentinel. I’d also like to leave you with the song “Pulse” by Eli Lieb and Brandon Skeie that is dedicated to the victims and their families:
(Adapted from this Facebook post.)