Before this weekend, to me, Orlando was simply a sunny place that’s home to, ‘the happiest place on earth,’ or Disney World. But, this weekend, Orlando became a dark place that’s home to the deadliest mass shooting in American history as a result of ONE gunman. One man who decided he couldn’t keep his hatred inside his own body. One man that decided that the LGBT community was a deserving target for his guns.
As a radio announcer, you’re online at all times keeping an eye on headlines and events, even if you’re away from the airwaves for a weekend. This story took some time to process. This story has had me at a loss of words. The first thing I read about the gunman, Omar Mateen, was that he was 29 years old. I’m 29 years old. I can’t imagine how someone my age could devise a plan so horrific, and remain ‘cool, calm, and collected’ while opening fire on innocent people. Innocent people who have finally, after years of hate and hiding in a country that’s supposed to be all about FREEDOM, found a safe place to celebrate their freedoms among similar-minded people. 49 of those people died on a regular saturday night out on the town, and 53 others were wounded. More than one-hundred people were caught between bullets and hate. One single man is now responsible for the largest mass shooting since the 32 victims at Virginia Tech in 2007. And the worst part? If he lived through this, he would have been proud.
Was this night-club massacre a result of America’s gun-obsessed culture? Was it radical Islam? Although the shooter claimed his allegiance to ISIS via 911, was he actually working for the Islamic State or did he just want us to think that? From CBC:
“Mina and other officials confirmed Mateen, a U.S. citizen of Afghan descent from Port St. Lucie, Fla., called 911 during the standoff to pledge his allegiance to the Islamic State in Syria in Iraq (ISIS), and that the standoff persisted because Mateen had made threats about setting off bombs from inside Pulse nightclub. “
And what about mental illness? Some more information about the suspect to consider, from NBC News:
- An ex-co-worker told NBC News that Mateen was racist, belligerent and “toxic.”
- His father told NBC News his son was enraged after recently seeing a same-sex couple kissing in front of his family, an event that could have set him off.
- In 2013, Mateen was interviewed twice by federal agents after co-workers reported that he made “inflammatory” comments to them about radical Islamic propaganda. The following year, the FBI looked at him again because of ties with an American who traveled to the Middle East to become a suicide bomber.
- Law enforcement sources told NBC News he swore allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a 911 call moments before the rampage at Pulse.
Read more about what we know about the shooter from NPR HERE.
Here’s a story out of Orlando that will tear your heart from Gawker:
Mina Justice still hasn’t found her son. All she has are the disturbing messages Eddie sent her while he was trapped inside with the gunman.
Shortly after 2 a.m., Mina began receiving a series of frantic texts from Eddie describing the chaotic scene as it unfolded. On Sunday, Mina shared their exchange with the Associated Press, which was later summarized by Slate:
Eddie: “Mommy I love you” (2:06 a.m.)
Eddie: “In club they shooting.”
Mina: “U ok”
Eddie: “Trapp in bathroom.” (2:07 a.m.)
Mina: “What club”
Eddie: “Pulse. Downtown. Call police.”
Eddie: “I’m gonna die.” (2:08 a.m.)
Mina: “I’m calling them now.”
Mina: “U still in there”
Mina: “Answer our damn phone”
Mina: “Call them”
Mina: “Call me.”
Eddie: “Call them mommy” (2:39 a.m.)
Mina: [Is anyone hurt?]
Eddie: “Lots. Yes.” (2:42 a.m.)
Mina: [Are you with police?]
Mina: “Text me please”
Eddie: “No” (2:46 a.m.)
Eddie: ‘”Still here in bathroom. He has us. They need to come get us.”
Mina: “The police is in There let me no when u see the police” (2:49 a.m.)
Eddie: “Hurry” (2:49 a.m.)
Eddie: “He’s in he bathroom with us” (2:50 a.m.)
Eddie: “Women’s bathroom is” (2:50 a.m.)
Mina: “Is the man in the bathroom wit u”
Eddie: “He’s a terror”
Eddie: “Yes” (2:51 a.m.)
Mina: “Are u hurt”
Mina: “Stay there he don’t like gay people” (2:52 a.m.)
Mina: “Text me please” (2:53 a.m.)
Mina: “I love u” (2:54 a.m.)
Mina: “Don’t do nothing”
Mina: “Stay down”
Mina: “Baby text me”
As of Sunday night, authorities had only released the names of eight victims. Eddie’s name was not on the list, a fact that brought Mina little comfort.
My heart aches trying to understand how two people of the same-sex kissing is offensive enough to set someone on a path of rage that leads to a massacre like this weekend’s events in Orlando. How are we supposed to make sense of this?
And now, the after-math. For every hate crime, there’s both someone who’s inspired to do the same, and someone who’s inspired to spread love. This is the reality of the world we are living in today. There will be new hate crimes that are inspired by Orlando. But there will also be more love and support for the LGBT community. It’s the ying & the yang of North America in 2016. There will be increased security in Orlando. There will be increased security at the Euro Cup. This morning there’s already been reports of a suspicious and armed suspect at the University of Toronto that has police & security scrambling to protect the campus, in hopes that there will not be a copy-cat in our country today.
And then there’s people trying to take CREDIT…
Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2016
If you don’t want the praise, you wouldn’t have typed that message for millions to read on Twitter. That’s exactly what you want.
What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2016
The sarcasm in this man’s tweets has no place while the country he wants to run is grieving for these victims.
While we think about gun control in the US with heavy hearts today, watch was President Obama had to say when he was asked to speak on this topic 11 days before the Orlando shooting.
I ask one thing of you, however you’ve been affected by this weekend’s massacre in Orlando…
Find a way to support the LGBT community living in fear that this will happen in other cities across the world. Find a way to spread love in whatever way you can to combat the hate. Find a way to embrace that love is love regardless of who is kissing who. And please, find a way to believe that there are still good people in this world and they are everywhere.
Tomorrow night, Londoners will gather at Aeolian Hall for a candlelight vigil for the victims in collaboration with Pride London, MCC London & PFLAG Canada at 7:30 pm.
Find the event details HERE.
Peace & love,