Sunday June 12, 2016 in the early morning hours, many Indy Pride partiers were just starting to head home. The startling news didn’t catch some of us until the morning hours: the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando was the site of a mass murder. It was Latin Night – a themed regular monthly occurrence at Pulse. The large central Florida Latin community attended the club’s festive dance events – it was a mostly gay crowd, but straight allies mingled happily with the regular patrons.
The large central Florida Latin community attended the club’s festive dance events – it was a mostly gay crowd, but straight allies mingled happily with the regular patrons.
By the time the dust cleared, 49 club patrons were dead, another 53 injured, some severely. Part-time security guard Omar Mateen, 29, pledged allegiance to the terrorist organization ISIL, and entered the club shortly before 2 a.m.
He opened fire and then held up in the club for three hours. Police subsequently stormed the club and Mateen were killed. FBI and CIA sources later discredited Mateen’s claim that he was a terrorist. In March, I attended a national gay media conference in Orlando funded in part by the National GLBT Media Association, the Walter & Emily Haas Jr. Fund, and others. There, the editor of the local gay newspaper, Watermark’s Billy Manes, told of the horror he experienced that night:
“My phone started going off,” Manes said. “By the next morning, I was (appearing) on national TV news shows, trying to explain this. It was hard because many of us had gone to Pulse a lot, we knew the folks there, and this happened in our community. We will never be the same.”
Manes said the site is haunting to this day— and it is. The media conference conducted a pilgrimage to the site—the pictures are on this page. The atmosphere is chilling—it’s in a neighborhood, a mile or so from downtown. I’d been there before. It could’ve easily been an Indy club. And memorials from around the world are placed for all to see. ‘
The grief is overwhelming—but you get a sense of the injured folks struggling too. LGBTQ allies from around the world sent— and continue to send—thoughtful symbols, flags, cards, flowers…and personal notes. Everywhere. An Orange County Museum employee told our conference that her superiors quickly approved an idea to collect all the memorial items. Many are housed off-site. “We’ll build something, someday where folks can visit,” she said. “We have to. So many people sent so many things, and they all mean something important.” For now, the site is hallowed ground. Manes said the building’s owners have refused offers to buy the property for potential use as a memorial. Nobody knows why. Ultimately, local folks think a memorial will be constructed on the site—what else could ever go on this spot?
See the online vigil with the full list of names courtesy of the Washington Post here:
Want to support the Orlando nightclub victims? Visit http://www.weareorlando.org/ for more information on how you can support the victims. Follow the Pulse Nightclub official Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/pulseorlando/