June 12 is yet another day marked in tragedy in the United States of America. On this day in 2016, dozens of people were shot and killed in a mass shooting incident inside of a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. In total, 49 people were killed in what was then the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history and the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since the September 11 attacks in 2001.
The nightclub Pulse, an LGBTQ friendly nightclub, was having Latin night and most of the killed and injured victims were of that demographic. Most of the victim's that night were either LGBTQ or Latino. It was thought that part of the killer's motivation was for targeting persons for their sexual orientation. Following the shooting, flags were lowered to half-staff, vigils were held across the nation, and leaders, countries, celebrities, and religious and political leaders all released statements condemning the shooting.
Five years later, the Orlando community still remembers a lot of the hurt and tragedy it felt on that night and the days following. In 2016 a fence featuring commemorative screen-wrap with local artwork and pictures of the victims was erected around the nightclub to serve as a memorial to the victims and survivors of the shooting. The next year the owner created the onePULSE Foundation and announced plans for a memorial site and museum.
Since the Pulse Nightclub shooting, according to the FBI, there have been more than 83 mass shootings. Including Pulse, more than 485 people have been killed in those shootings with close to 1,000 others injured. The death toll from Pulse, as the deadliest mass shooting in the United States, was only surpassed by the Las Vegas mass shooting that resulted in 58 victims killed and another 400 plus injured by gunfire. Meanwhile gun legislation and debates continue to go back and forth in state and federal governments.
But as Orlando's gay and lesbian Latino community has been more visible in the years since the shooting, so has the continued support for the population. Many LGBTQ Latinos becoming leaders in the community in the wake of the shooting.
The Pulse memorial site was open in the days leading up to the anniversary for anyone who wanted to come and reflect on the tragedy. At noon on June 12, 49 rings from a local church would be heard to honor the 49 victims. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and other city leaders will be on hand to honor and show support. The site will be closed at 7 p.m. Saturday for a private memorial ceremony attended by survivors and the families of the victims.
Five years later mourning and remembrance continues, even in the days prior to the anniversary where the United States Senate voted for a bill to establish a National Pulse Memorial. The legislation was passed with no dissent, a month after the House of Representatives passed their version of the bill. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it into law in the coming days.
Many efforts put forth to honor and remember those who lost their lives that day. Efforts by a Latino influenced city that continues to rally around its support of the gay and lesbian community, that will always remember a day too hard to forget for many gone too soon.