Last night, a gunman entered into the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 320 people were dancing and celebrating Pride at a Latin night dance party. This morning, 50 are dead, 53 are injured, and we are left to shed tears for them.
New Orleans shares a painful echo of this tragedy. Prior to this morning, the 1973 Upstairs Lounge Fire in the French Quarter was the largest mass killing of LGBTQ people in the US. 32 people, primarily gay men and their families, were killed when a fire was started at the base of the stairs that led to the bar.
At this point, there is speculation that the Orlando shooter had ties to radical Islam. There are those who would seek a reason why this happened. There are those who will seek justice. Justice, however, should never be confused with revenge.
The LGBTQ community knows what it means to be vilified, and used as a scapegoat. The LGBT Center and PFLAG will not condemn or scapegoat any community for this hateful attack.
In the coming days and months we will learn the names and stories of the people in the club. How they helped their friends, what their impact on the world has been, and what their legacy will become.
In the shadows of this immense attack, we should not forget the tragedies within our own city. This weekend, Devin Diamond, a member of the New Orleans LGBTQ community, was found dead of blunt force trauma to the head, their body burned in an abandoned car in New Orleans East. They had borrowed a friend’s car to go dancing and be with community. You can help Devin’s family cover their burial expenses here.
Nearly 43 years ago, in a small gay bar, an MCC church service has ended in the back room and friends were dancing and talking. A fire erupted and the bars on the windows prevented their escape. In the aftermath, many families were afraid to claim the bodies for fear of retribution and only one church would host a memorial. The mayor didn’t cancel his vacation.
Today, thousands of people line up to give blood join in solidarity, donate & pray. The President addressed the nation, and said that this attack was not just on the LGBTQ community, but an attack on the United States.
In the 43 years that have elapsed, the LGBTQ community has been united in shared triumph and tragedy. Gratefully we no longer carry them alone. Tomorrow we will decide as a community how to respond to this, but tonight we invite our community to honor those that went before them and dance.