News of a tragic mass shooting in Orlando, Florida broke in the early morning hours on Sunday, June 12. As reported by CNN, Orlando Police Chief John Mina has confirmed that there are approximately 20 casualties and 42 injured. The gunman was killed by police as well. The shooting broke out at PULSE nightclub, self-described as both "Orlando's premier gay night club" and a "high energy gay dance club with regular theme nights and specials" on its website. Although it has yet to be confirmed whether the shooting was a hate crime, Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesman Danny Banks "classified the shootings at Pulse Nightclub as an 'act of terrorism,'" according to ABC.
Update: Orlando’s mayor has updated the death toll to 50 deceased and more than 50 people in hospital.
But while the FBI has yet to identify whether or not the shooting was motivated by sexual prejudice or otherwise, one thing is for certain: The nightclub is a beloved hotspot for many, and the events of Sunday morning have affected more people than we can possibly ever know.
With almost 4,000 followers on Instagram, 4.5 thousand on Twitter, and over 32,000 on Facebook, many have flocked to the bar, lounge, and club known as the "Heartbeat of Orlando" over the years. It's clearly been a safe space for the LGBTQ community and its allies, judging from the solidarity expressed on social media for the nightclub and the victims. Hashtags like #Orlando, #GunControlNow, and #PrayForOrlando have quickly become trending topics.
When such tragedies occur, we can only hope that they help spark the kinds of conversations needed in order to facilitate progress and a safer, more inclusive-minded future. It's clear that the horrific events at PULSE already have people talking about issues of gun control and homophobia — and while that may feel like little consolation given the circumstances, it's at least something to hold onto amidst the terror.