Tonight we held an event here in Gaithersburg MD recognizing the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando FL -- here is my main post about it. This post is the prose piece Gretchen Wyrick wrote for the event and read at it (and it is fairly detailed, so please use your best judgement around if / when / how long to read it):
Orlando Shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida
On June 12, 2016 at around 2:00 am the United States experienced the deadliest mass shooting in its history as a gunman entered the crowded gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida. He headed towards the main bar.
Armed with an assault rifle, a hand gun, and large amounts of ammunition, the gunman opened fire on the 300 plus patrons and employees of the club. He moved without words across the dance floor; a dark shadow firing his weapon.
Gun fire replaced the blaring music and glass fell shattering all over the floor. Club goers screamed and tried to run for safety.
At 2:09 am the nightclub took to Facebook posting “Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running.”
Angel Colon said “We just grabbed each other. We started running.” Angel was shot several times and fell to the ground. He watched as the gunman shot the woman next to him and then began shooting the other people already lying on the floor.
People crawled for cover and rushed towards the doors.
Ray Rivera, a DJ at the club, watched as people frantically darted out from the club. A man and a woman dashed to hide under his DJ booth. The man took off as soon as there was a break in the shooting; Ray pushed the woman and said, “Let’s go,” heading for the door.
Loud music still blared from the speakers.
Samuel Maldonado was working in the club’s courtyard when gunshots rang out and the crowd began to run from inside Pulse. As the gunman approached the courtyard Samuel hid under a table. A woman close to Samuel was screaming and crying. He jumped on top of her, covering her mouth as the gunman moved
closer. The gunman proceeded to reload his weapon and turned his sights back towards the club. The shooting resumed.
An off duty officer working at the club responded to the shots and gun fire was exchanged.
As additional officers arrived, a gun battle ensued and the gunman retreated back inside the club to a bathroom taking several hostages with him.
Norman Casiano crawled into a bathroom and wedged himself into a stall crammed with at least a dozen other people. He prayed “Please don’t let this be where I go.” A dark figure loomed outside the stall door; Norman froze, certain the gunman was just inches away. Norman heard people pleading “Please, please, please don’t shoot” “Please don’t do this. Let us go,” but the gunman continued to open fire.
Trapped patrons were helpless, shocked, and scared. They desperately called police and texted friends and family for help.
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice found shelter in one of the bathrooms and texted his mom:
Mommy I love you
In the club they shooting
Trapd in the bathroom
Im gonna die
His mother, Mina Justice, replied trying the reassure her son:
Calling them now
U still there?
Answer your phone
Unknown to Mina, Eddie’s mother, the gunman had just peppered the bathroom stalls with gun shots.
All around Patience Carter, unanswered cell phones chirped. Patience took cover in one the bathrooms stalls as the gunman stood right outside. She could hear him talking; he sounded deranged. His feet were visible just beyond the stall door. After what felt like an eternity Patience heard three large blasts and officers telling people to move away from the walls.
At around 5 am, after a three hour standoff between the gunman and Orlando police, the SWAT team used an armored vehicle, construction equipment, and explosives to breach the club walls allowing hostages to flee. Police also removed an air conditioner unit guiding patrons to crawl out to safety.
The gunman then exited through one of the holes engaging in a shootout with police resulting in his death.
As the police entered the horrific scene inside the nightclub they asked survivors to raise their hands, many who had been injured were carried outside by the officers. Pools of blood covered the floor.
39 people were pronounced dead at the scene and 11 more after being transported to the hospital. 53 people were wounded and taken nearby for medical treatment.
Among the victims were a barista, an accountant, a recent high school grad, a mother, a son, and a best friend.
This was truly an act of hate, a crime against a community. This massacre has already been defined as one of the nation’s worst terror attacks.
In the wake of such a devastating tragedy my thoughts are with the victims, their families, and friends. Let us be a light for them in this a dark time, for darkness cannot live in the light.