How a community honors fallen angels while a president chooses to silence the rest
Yesterday marked the anniversary of the tragic Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting.
Four years ago, 49 lives were abruptly taken, 50 more patrons injured and the attacker himself shot dead in a three-hour standoff with police.
Each year, family members read the “49 angel's" names as their photographs appear on the screen during a virtual vigil of remembrance hosted by the OnePULSE Foundation on Facebook and YouTube live. This year, the decision to move online was in compliance with CDC guidelines amidst COVID-19.
Hours before the vigil, in an unwavering attempt to directly attack the LGBTQ+ community, the Trump administration announced the repeal of the trans-nondiscrimination clause in section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. The ruling allows health workers to refuse care to patients on the basis of the worker’s religious or moral beliefs, yet in most recent findings by the Center for American Progress, 8% of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults and 29% of transgender adults have been turned away for such reasons.
The Trump administration has never been an ally. But a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union described the timing of the decision as “beyond heartless.”
The act deters a vulnerable community from professional health care not only during pride month but a pandemic.
President Trump has previously used the shooting as an attempt for his own political gain.
He cast the shooter as a “radical Islamic terrorist” who immigrated to the U.S while campaigning on a Muslim ban. Later it was discovered he had been American-born.
The attack, nonetheless, was sought as a form of vengeance against the nation. The attacker’s intent was solely to bring about violence on U.S. soil, not exclusively to the LGBTQ+ community.
As more evidence surfaced during his widow’s trial, this false perception was struck down by the shooter’s personal Facebook posts and cellphone tracking hours before the attack. According to the Intercept, each post explicitly regarded grievances over U.S foreign policy in the Middle East and the google search requested just two undescriptive words: “Orlando nightclubs.”
Before his fatality, when he was confronted by police for demands, the shooter asked for the government “to stop U.S airstrikes” in Syria and Iraq from killing Muslim civilians.
After refusing to sell the nightclub to the city in 2016, survivors and families of the victims have accused owner Barbara Poma of profiting off the deaths with current memorial plans. Protestors have formed the Community Coalition Against a Pulse Museum (CCAPM) advocating for a public-owned memoriam to alleviate suspicion of money laundering.
In the years since the Pulse shooting, the Orlando community has also faced problems regarding the much-anticipated Pulse Memoriam.
Poma said she initially built the nightclub in honor of her brother John who died during the AIDS epidemic. The personal value made it too difficult to sell. But The OnePULSE foundation assured the public that the same steps taken with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum were being applied.
Last June, Florida lawmakers proposed a bill to make the anticipated site a national memorial, making the project one of the few LGBTQ+ landmarks in the nation. The bill was last reviewed in March.
The new Pulse memorial and museum are expected to break ground in 2021 and be completed between 2022 and 2023.
“It’s our mission to pay tribute to all those affected and engage and educate people from around the world to serving as a catalyst for positive change,” said Poma in her closing statement at last night's vigil. “We hope to encourage courageous conversations and give people of all ages and backgrounds the tools that they need to learn about and promote acceptance.”
When first hearing the news, I was 16-years-old heading home from work. Only 15 minutes away from one of the most mortifying massacres, it became very clear the line between politics and life and death was very thin. I watched my city crumble and the atmosphere shift. I witnessed first hand this looming fear when presented with another shooting scare two months at work.
I watched my hometown unify. We wore “Orlando Strong” on our chests in remembrance of the lives lost. The Pulse shooting was supposed to be a lesson on gun reform and equal rights. It should no longer be debatable, but those in power have other thoughts.
We must remember the 49 names, and we must continue to push for a more equal world.
Sam Bailon is a Staff Writer for Rowdy Magazine. She enjoys long summer days, grooving to funk music and can recite the entire musical Singing in the Rain. You can contact her at Samantha.firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or amateur tap dancing lessons.