On June 12, 2016, a highly popular club for the LGBTQ community and its supporters suffered a terrorist attack that has gone down in history. “Pulse” nightclub in Orlando, Florida was among the most popular places in the Orlando area for people to have fun and enjoy life. It was a well known establishment and had always been considered a “safe place” for everyone. But a year ago, the terrorist shooter Omar Mateen, took 49 innocent lives and left even more wounded at the club as what he claimed was a response to the United States bombing of Iraq and Syria and the killing of Abu Waheeb the month before in Iraq.
But in the year after this deadly and senseless attack, so much has happened. Some has been good, some has been bad, but most of it has been fueled by overwhelming sadness because of that horrific night. There have been lots of people come forward to offer help and support not only to the victims, but to the entire LGBTQ community. The world has shown support and solidarity against hatred and violence. So now a year later, here are 15 facts that will shock you about this shooting and the events of the last 12 months.
15. Deadliest Terror Attack in the US Since 9-11
The world knew that this shooting was a horrible act of terror and hatred immediately after it happened. But after all was said and done, the shooting at the “Pulse” nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016 has become labeled as the deadliest terror attack on United States soil since September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center was attacked. The shooter was apparently very organized and targeted this club specifically. Mateen’s motivations as being out of allegiance to ISIS or a hatred of homosexuality has been investigated in the aftermath. Regardless, the attack took many valuable and innocent lives that cannot be returned. The world felt the same old shock and the sadness as September 11th all over again…a feeling no one ever wanted to feel again.
14. Pulse Owner Started OnePulse Foundation
“Pulse” nightclub owner Barbara Poma has recognized that this horrible event is more than just a sad detour. This event is life changing for many and has in many ways opened up new and important discussions about terrorism, hate crimes, gun control and a variety of other important topics. Recognizing the impact that this event has had, Ms. Poma very bravely created the OnePulse Foundation to help drive these discussions and preserve the memories of the victims, their families and establish a lasting positive impact upon the world. Ms. Poma could have just carried on in the direction her life was going, perhaps even capitalizing on the event but has chosen to dedicate her life to this new and worthy cause. She is a shining example of class and integrity.
13. Chris Hansen Returned To Pull Out Victims
While there may be others like him, Chris Hansen’s story stands out and is worth special mention. Chris was relatively new to the Orlando area and was at the nightclub enjoying himself and having a good time. When the shooting began, he was fortunately able to get out of the club to safety. But while most people would be so thankful to have their lives intact and get away from danger, Hansen decided that he wanted to help. He returned to the club to help pull out victims from the club! This selfless act continues to be worth repeating and his heroism is so important to note in this time of fear and caution all over the world. We need more people like Chris to step up and show love and assistance whenever and wherever possible.
12. Wife of Shooter In Prison Awaiting Trial
While the shooter, Omar Mateen was shot and killed by police in the shooting at the nightclub, through investigation, there is still the question of who may have been an accomplice to this horrible tragedy. Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman was under investigation and ultimately arrested for her involvement in the events. She allegedly knew that he was planning the attack and failed to report it to authorities. Salman says that Mateen was abusive toward her and she was afraid for her life. She is maintaining her innocence, but is in prison without bail while she awaits trial. After the incident, she went to San Francisco, essentially living in exile with her young son until authorities placed her under arrest. Noor’s family are from Afghanistan, but she has spent her whole life in California.
11. Pulse Club Sent a Warning on Facebook
Sometimes, the coldness of social media can be absolutely chilling. It is a very useful tool for communicating, but usually not for such serious things as warnings of a shooting and hostage situation. Someone inside the club at the beginning of the shooting had the foresight to post a brief, but very direct message on the Pulse Facebook account. It read: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running”. No emojis, no attached pictures and no time to edit…this was a direct plea to anyone that could see it to get out and stay away. But the post did more than just alert people to what was happening. It opened up a central place for people to comment what they were seeing and details about the event. In this case, social media was a highly useful tool.
10. Eiffel Tower Was Illuminated In Rainbow Colors
After the events of the Pulse shooting, countries around the world came together in support and solidarity. Because this shooting has been seen as not only a terrorist attack, but a hate crime targeting the LGBTQ community, other countries came together in a beautiful way to show that acts of violence and terrorism against them or anyone cannot and will not be supported or tolerated. In a beautiful and sobering display, the people of France showed their support and illuminated the Eiffel Tower in a rainbow colored pattern. Other countries and locations carried out the same type of display after the event, showing their support for the cause and mutual mourning for the tragic lives that were lost and many others that were injured in the event. This showing of support was needed at a time of extreme sadness.
9. Shooter Kept Himself Inside The Club With Hostages
So apparently Omar Matten had planned out his attack on the nightclub, scoping the place out ahead of time and getting himself organized. On the night of the attack, he went in the club at approximately 2:00 am and began shooting. Mass panic came when the shots were fired, but miraculously, many were able to escape. Mateen called and spoke to a 911 operator, claiming responsibility for the shooting and pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. Mateen said he had explosives and would detonate them as well. This all went on for three horrific hours, until police knocked holes in the walls of the building. Mateen came out shooting at police, where they returned fire, killing him on the scene. One officer was shot, but not seriously injured as a result of his helmet.
8. 50 Deaths and 53 Wounded
The death toll from the event was a total of 50 lives. 49 of those lives were taken by Mateen in the club, but number 50 was Mateen himself, taken by police. This sad and tragic event took 49 innocent people from the world in an instant. But beyond these lives, there were another 53 people that experienced wounds and injury from this nightmare. While they are all grateful to have their lives, they will no doubt be scarred from the incident and the heavy burden of carrying the memory with them each and every day. We cannot forget this horrible tragedy and must only carry on to support the efforts to preserve their legacies and help others learn about them as well. Out of this terrible tragedy, there can be light.
7. Pulse Nightclub Was Opened To Honor Owner’s Brother
Club owner Barbara Poma opened Pulse as a tribute to her late brother John. His death in 1991 was as a result of the AIDS virus. Barbara opened the club in 2004 as a way to honor him and keep his “pulse” living onward. When she talks about the purpose of the club, Poma says that it was always intended to be a safe place for all to go and enjoy themselves. The club was one of the most popular spots for the LGBTQ community in Orlando. Sadly, the club will now be overshadowed as the location for the most horrific terrorist event in the United States since September 11, 2001. The way to honor her brother John may not be continuing in the way she had originally planned, but Poma has gone on this year to do some very strong and impactful things that will make her brother proud.
6. One Club Employee Was Killed With Others Injured
Of the victims of the shooting, only one Pulse employee was killed in the attack. Others were injured, but Kimberly “KJ” Morris was the only one that was killed. Sadly, KJ was a new employee at Pulse who was working as a bouncer. There have been a few relief funds established to help the employees of the club financially after the disaster. Without their jobs at Pulse and the emotional strain put upon them from the incident, it is not easy picking up the pieces of everyday life. But the owner of the club and others are committed to helping them all regroup. Few businesses would go to the lengths to support their employees after a tragic event as has the Pulse nightclub. Honoring the memory of KJ and the others that died as well as supporting the wounded in their times of need is priority number one.
5. It Was Latin Night At The Club The Night Of The Shooting
There were more Latinos at the club on the night of the shooting because it was Latin night at the club. For the LGBTQ Latino community, Latin night was an opportunity to come be themselves and not have to worry about anything. It was supposed to be a safe place, but on June 12, 2016, it was anything but safe. While this was an act of terror as well as hate, it was felt beyond just the LGBTQ community. The Latino community felt their own specific sadness because they felt caught off guard and like there is nowhere truly safe for them to be who they are without anger, violence and hatred. Even though Latinos were not the only ones there, they are yet another group that felt the lasting impact of this horrible night.
4. Nightclub Will Become a Memorial And Museum
To owner Barbara Poma, to reopen the club just as before in the same location would be the wrong path to take. Instead, Poma wants the building to become a memorial and museum to educate the public about the horrific events, as well as to tell about the lives of those that died in the shooting. As a memorial, the site will be able to do so much more good for Orlando and the whole world. While Poma may open another club in a different location, her focus these days is almost entirely on the OnePulse Foundation and helping try to make something good come from this horrible event. It is clear that opening another club in the same place is just not an option at all, out of respect for the overall somber feeling and deep emotions brought out by the event.
3. Celebrity Support
Immediately following the shooting, many celebrities, professional sports teams and cities began showing their sadness and support of the community on social media. Hundreds of tweets and other messages came about in a matter of hours showing the level of support that the victims, their families and anyone connected to the tragedy had from them and the rest of the world. The OnePulse Foundation has held fundraising events that have been supported by many celebrities financially in the last year. Support financially is absolutely necessary for the memorial to become established, but more than just money, knowing that the world stands strongly by through the grieving process speaks volumes. It is nice to know that there is still a lot of love in the world, even when there appears to be far more hate.
2. Break-in a Month After The Shooting
Sadly, after events like this there are people that try to take advantage of moments of weakness. The Pulse nightclub property had been sealed off as an investigation and crime scene for about a month after the shooting. After the on site investigation was complete, the club was turned back over to the owners. The area was still high profile and the owners had it locked down, but the morning after they got control of the property back, someone had apparently broken into the club. Nothing seemed to be taken and there was no additional vandalism, but it is sickening that some opportunist would try to take advantage in their moment of grief and mourning. There were not additional reports of break-in, but this was just one more headache the owners didn’t need.
1. Offer From City of Orlando To Buy Building
After the shooting, the event sent shockwaves across the world. Orlando was now the pity of everyone for this event. In recognizing this, the city made a very generous offer to purchase the club from the owners for the amount of $2.5 million. The offer was already considered by many members of the city council as too high, but nevertheless, the Mayor felt the need to make this offer to the owners. Certainly, the city would have created some type of memorial, but Barbara Poma, just couldn’t sell. She wanted to make sure that any lasting impact was done on the terms of the community that was so badly impacted. The memorial and museum will surely happen, but it will be a private project rather than a public one.