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Remembering the Pulse Nightclub Shooting One Year Later
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12 Jun 2017 02:46 PM EST

-by Drew Kolar, Editor; Image: An early image of Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida (Image Source: Public Domain)

While Pride Month is greatly a time of celebration of how far we have come in this country, it is also a month of remembrance.

This month, we remember the struggles that LGBTQ people faced to get to where we are today. We remember the Stonewall Riots. We remember our fight for marriage equality. We remember victims of hate crimes.

And now to add to that list, we remember the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

One year ago today on June 12, 2016, 29-year-old Omar Mateen massacred bar patrons at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and wounding 58 others. The terrorist attack and hate crime became the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter as well as the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history. It also was the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since September 11, 2001. The victims of the shooting were largely of Latin descent.

During the shooting, Mateen pledged his allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, noting that the shooting was prompted by the killing of Abu Waheeb in Iraq. Some reports claimed that he was a regular at the nightclub and was on gay dating websites and apps, but FBI officials later said there was no credible evidence to back the claims up. The CIA added that it found no evidence of communication between ISIS and Mateen.  He simply acted alone, out of his own hatred for the U.S., and most likely of the LGBTQ culture—although we will never quite know a concrete motive, as he was shot and killed by police officers.

Today, we remember the lives lost in the attack. Like September 11, we remember where we were—I was with my family in Nantucket, watching the Stanley Cup Finals, but while they were celebrating the Pittsburgh Penguins' win, I was outside of the restaurant checking on my Orlando friends and crying for the devastating loss in our community. Some people will never quite understand its effect on individuals that weren't there, but those of us in the community will always understand. Today, we hold those victims and their families in our hearts.

As a non-religious person, it will always be difficult to understand the hatred for our community that many people have—from all walks of life. As a person who has only understood love and acceptance as proper behavior in our society, all attacks of this nature will be truly shocking. It is also impossible to hate the attackers, as they perhaps didn't know anything different than hatred they were bred with. As someone who was luckily taught tolerance and acceptance and love, days like today will always be hard to bear. But we always must continue to remember and continue to spread love and silence the hate as best we can.

Please take a moment today and reflect on the past—but also look toward the future. Violence is never the answer, but perhaps we can learn from events like these. The world came together on that day to mourn the loss of life, and the LGBTQ community, at least for a moment, was united and stronger than ever, not out of hate, but out of our own love for our brethren. If we can keep that love strong, perhaps we can continue to progress culturally. If we can all unite as a society, perhaps we can work together to stop the hate.

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