Update: In a press conference Monday morning, Orlando police confirmed that 49 people had been killed and 53 injured early Sunday morning at Orlando's Pulse gay nightclub in the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history. After opening fire on the crowd, an individual named Omar Mateen had taken hostages and was ultimately killed in a stand-off with police; Mateen had called 911 and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State shortly before the massacre. Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer declared a state of emergency, and the massacre is being investigated as an act of terrorism.
The victims' names were released by the city of Orlando on its website as their next of kin were informed. Here are some ways to help the Orlando shooting victims and their loved ones; you can also donate to the victims' fund, as well as express your solidarity with the LGBTQ community by posting a tribute online. You can also attend a vigil near you to honor the victims.
Earlier: On early Sunday morning, a gunman tore through Orlando's gay night club Pulse, killing and injuring dozens of people. There is speculation that this was an act of terrorism or a hate crime, which is especially ironic and cruel given the inspirational story behind the creation of Pulse. The club's owner, Barbara Poma, opened the club in 2004 to promote awareness for the area's LGBT community. Her older brother, John, died of HIV in 1991, and the club was meant to "keep his spirit alive," the website says.
Poma was introduced to the Ft. Lauderdale club scene by her brother at a young age, when "the gay scene was a misunderstood culture that was shrouded in secrecy and mystery," the site says. Pulse was created to celebrate the gay lifestyle in a way that was likely impossible during John Poma's lifetime.
The club also devotes itself to supporting the gay community and education and awareness surrounding HIV prevention, by partnering with numerous charitable organizations in this vein, including Equal at UCF, Equality Florida, Out4Immigration, Miracle of Love, and Out With Pride.
It is truly tragic that a venue created with so much love was targeted with so much hate.
Image: Pulse Orlando/Facebook