One year ago today, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history occurred. The attack took place at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in downtown Orlando, Florida. In the early morning of June 12th, one man would act against the American values of love and respect for freedom by murdering forty-nine people out of his disagreement with their sexual orientation.
The bloodshed at Pulse took place at 2:02 am and continued until 5:15 am. The shooter, Omar Mateen, was previously on the FBI watch list in 2013 for pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda but was taken off the list a year later, according to former FBI Director James Comey. While holding partygoers hostage inside Pulse, Mateen called 911 multiple times, as he wanted the world to know he was the shooter. During the call with dispatchers, Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and claimed that the Tsarnaev brothers, who killed three people and injured nearly three hundred at the 2012 Boston Marathon, were his “homeboys.”
ISIS has comprised a lengthy, barbaric history of persecution towards gay individuals. In their online English magazine, Dabiq, ISIS claimed that persecuting gays allows them to gain “ideological purity” and “will protect the Muslims from treading the same rotten course that the West has chosen to pursue.” Through his pledge to the Islamic State, Mateen seemingly believed he was achieving “ideological purity” and that the massacre would protect Muslims from the “same rotten course” pursued by Westerners. Many faiths disagree with homosexuality, and they have the right to do so. However, what is purely un-American and unintellectual is to murder those with which one disagrees. Western values mean opportunity for all religions, sexual orientations, and ethnicities. These values are what survivors fought for that night at Pulse.
As noted by DearWorld.Org, a group that travels the world to raise awareness for disaster victims, Officer Omar Delgado was one of the responding cops at Pulse during the attack. Now suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, just as many others who survived the shooting, Officer Delgado remembers his experience in the club on the night of the attack:
The blood is coming out of all these poor people. It started making a pool of blood and it just started carrying away.
Partygoers were held hostage in the club for over three hours, unsure of who would come out alive. For the one-year anniversary of the shooting, the Mental Health Association of Central Florida is attempting to provide the survivors, victims’ families, and law enforcement with free mental health counseling, as many still struggle with extreme anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Moreover, to honor the victims and survivors of the Pulse nightclub, there have been many events taking place in Orlando, especially from the University of Central Florida. Two of the forty-nine Pulse victims were UCF students, Juan Guerrero and Christopher Leinonen. The two young men had goals to one day get married. To pay respect to Guerrero and Leinonen, artists at UCF painted a mural of the two and presented it outside the school’s Student Union. UCF also hosted a blood drive last Thursday in remembrance of the need for blood donations that immediately followed the attack. About ten Big Red Buses lined up ready to open to students.
UCF President John C. Hitt also paid respect to the victims of Pulse preceding the June 12th anniversary, and amplified the views of many Americans:
As I said last year: UCF stands with our LGBTQ+ students, faculty, staff and alumni. And I am proud that UCF is a place where love, respect and inclusion guide all that we do.
America is a freedom-loving nation. Citizens respect the rights of each other, even if they have disagreements on views or lifestyles. What makes America great is the ability to hold intellectual conversations and have disagreements that do not result in murder and mayhem. Unfortunately, in many nations ravaged by ISIS, these intelligent discussions and peaceful disagreements are unlawful. If the world obtains the American values of love and respect for the freedom of others, terror attacks, such as what occurred at the Pulse nightclub, would dwindle. One can only hope.