Many are still processing a tragedy that is now the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, Omar Mateen opened fire inside Pulse, a gay club in Orlando. Fifty people were killed and 53 wounded.
The New York Times further explained:
Pulse, which calls itself “Orlando’s Latin Hotspot,” was holding its weekly “Upscale Latin Saturdays” party. The shooting began around 2 a.m., and some patrons thought at first that the booming reports they heard were firecrackers or part of the loud, thumping dance music.
Some people who were trapped inside hid where they could, calling 911 or posting messages to social media, pleading for help. The club posted a stark message on its Facebook page: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”
A three-hour standoff followed the initial assault, with people inside effectively held hostage until around 5 a.m., when law enforcement officials led by a SWAT team raided the club, using an armored vehicle and explosives designed to disorient and distract. Over a dozen police officers and sheriff’s deputies engaged in a shootout with Mr. Mateen, leaving him dead and an officer wounded, his life saved by a Kevlar helmet that deflected a bullet.
Political responses draw mixed reactions
On Sunday, President Barack Obama addressed the shooting in a speech:
“Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate,” Obama said. “And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.”
Additional statements from politicians drew mixed reactions.
The Washington Post reported that “the differences were stark in reactions from the two parties’ respective leaders in Congress” and that many Republican politicians avoided making mention of the LGBT community when talking about the shooting or its victims:
Neither Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) or Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — all members of key national security committees — mentioned the LGBT aspect. In Florida, for much of the day, Republicans avoided the topic while Democrats jumped in. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who represents much of Orlando, reacted with a token of LGBT solidarity.
Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton also made statements following the attack:
All Americans are horrified, disgusted and saddened by the horrific atrocity in Orlando. Full statement: pic.twitter.com/ci5kxXKSyZ
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 12, 2016
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received criticism for one of his tweets sent after the shooting:
Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2016
Citizens, celebrities honor victims
WPVI-TV reported that “tens of thousands” of people celebrated gay pride in Philadelphia on Sunday, many attending to honor the victims in Orlando:
The annual Philly Pride Parade was held just hours after the mass shooting at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in Orlando. A moment of silence was held to remember the victims. Some found out about the shooting at the parade.
Hundreds of people swarmed Christopher Street around 6 p.m. for a vigil, dazed by the events of the early morning and needing to come to a place that they said gave them strength and solace. They held aloft rainbow banners, draped their arms around one another’s shoulders and offered chant after chant of “No hate!” Watching over them was a team of officers in counterterrorism gear.
“In the good times we’ve come here, in the bad times we’ve come here,” Brandon Cordeiro, 28, said. “What has always been true in all those times is we’ve stood together.”
NPR reported that “lines stretched around the block” as people gathered to donate blood, some waiting for hours:
As Sunday evening approached, many of the city’s blood banks reported that they were at capacity, thanks to the enormous outpouring of support—but called for donors to return on Monday and Tuesday, as the need would continue.
NPR also reported that although the response was overwhelming, many in the LGBT community were still barred from donating, sparking anger:
But, as some people noted with frustration and anger, FDA restrictions currently bar sexually active gay and bisexual men from donating blood, leaving many members of the LGBT community unable to contribute.
The frustration was shared on Twitter with sentiments such as the following tweet:
— Benjamin Di’Costa (@BenjaminDiCosta) June 12, 2016
The Tony Awards, held on Sunday night, dedicated its event to the shooting’s victims and victims’ family and friends:
Our hearts are heavy for the unimaginable tragedy that happened last night in Orlando. (1/2)
— The Tony Awards (@TheTonyAwards) June 12, 2016
Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those affected. The Tony Awards dedicate tonight’s ceremony to them. (2/2)
— The Tony Awards (@TheTonyAwards) June 12, 2016
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed One World Trade Center to be lit in the LGBT pride flags’ colors on Sunday night. In a statement, he said:
This senseless act of terror reminds us that there are those who seek to undermine these very values and the progress we have achieved. We will not let this happen. An attack on one is an attack on all. New York joins the rest of the nation in rejecting this hate, fear and extremism and stands shoulder to shoulder with the LGBT community.
Tonight, I am directing One World Trade Center to be lit the colors of the pride flag in a tribute to LGBT Americans and the lives that were lost. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest thoughts and prayers to those affected by this horrendous tragedy.