Orlando gay club massacre remembered, one year on
The LGBT community is marking the first anniversary of the horrific attack on the Pulse gay club.
Today marks the first anniversary of the Orlando massacre, a mass shooting in which 49 people lost their lives inside a gay nightclub.
Many of the victims were LGBT and members of the Latino community.
The attack remains one of the deadliest mass shootings on US soil in recent history.
One year on, the local community is marking the anniversary with a Day of Love and Kindness, with events held across Orlando to remember those who perished in the attack.
A giant rainbow flag will be flown over the Orange County government building for the day, while flags across Florida will be flown at half-mast.
A closed service for survivors, local officials and club employees was held overnight to mark the exact time of the attack, which took place around 2 AM on the morning of June 12.
Orlando Mayor Bobby Dyer said: “June 12 was the darkest day in our City’s history and a day that will forever be reserved to honour the memory of the 49 innocent lives taken from us too soon.
“This tragedy has deeply impacted our LGBTQ+, Latinx, other communities of colour and our entire City.
“Since the morning of June 12, 2016, we have come together to honor the victims, support their families and the survivors and thank our first responders in so many ways.
He added: “Following the Pulse tragedy, we showed the world that Orlando would not be defined by the act of a hate-filled killer, but instead defined by our response of love, compassion and unity.”
“I am so proud that we are Orlando United.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott said: “The horrific terror attack at Pulse attempted to rip at the seams of our society, strike fear in our hearts and divide us.
“Yet, in the face of extreme adversity and loss, Floridians showed resiliency, bravery and love. Over the past year, our state, the city of Orlando and the many Floridians affected by this tragedy have shown incredible resolve as we continue to mourn the loved and lost.
“As we pause to honour the 49 victims of this tragic attack this Monday, my wife and I will say a prayer for each of them and their families.
“We will also be reminded of all the people who helped others in need. The law enforcement officers, first responders, medical personnel, faith and spiritual leaders and Central Florida families defined what Florida is all about. We care about each other and we came together when it was needed the most.
“This was an attack on Orlando, our state, the Hispanic community and on the LGBTQ community. It left a solemn impact on our state that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.”
Many misconceptions continue to be widely believed by the public more than a year after the attack.
For example, many people continue to mistakenly believe that the shooter Omar Mateen was gay, owing to early tabloid reports suggesting he had frequented the bar or used gay hook-up apps.
Much of the early tabloid gossip was explicitly ruled out by the FBI during the investigation – with his smartphone showing no evidence that the shooter had used gay apps.
Investigators followed up with men who publicly claimed to have seen Mateen in gay bars. They were found to be not credible, or had confused Mateen with someone else.
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Transcripts of 911 calls made by Mateen during the shooting confirm that the motive was, in fact, his allegiance to the terrorist group known as Islamic State.
Authorities have also investigated the role of his wife Noor Salman the attack.
Salman was not initially arrested in the wake of the attack, but was detained in January this year after a police investigation cast doubt on her statements.
She stands accused of knowing about the plans for the attack in advance, but her attorneys and family insist she did not know what her husband was planning.
Salman made a federal court appearance in Orlando in April, pleading not guilty to charges of aiding and abetting her husband, as well as a charge of obstruction of justice.
The massacre last year prompted outpourings of grief in LGBT communities across the world.
In London, for example, streets in the city’s gay district Soho drew to a standstill after the attack as thousands joined hands at a vigil to pay their respects.
In December of last year Orlando responded to the massacre by setting up a scheme that allows businesses to identify themselves as safe places for LGBT customers.