June 12, 2017, marked the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, the largest mass shooting in the history of the United States.
On this day last year a night that was supposed to celebrate LGBTQ+ individuals turned into a tragic event, leaving 49 people dead and more than 50 injured.
The shooting by Omar Mateen took place for more than three hours, lasting until 5:53 a.m. Mateen’s actions have been classified as a hate-motivated act of terrorism, and he had previously been investigated by the FBI.
Though Mateen was killed, the uneasiness felt by the LGBTQ+ community remained at large.
Courtney Mulhern-Pearson, health policy coordinator at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, described the Pulse shooting as a “horrible and horrific event.” She said this traumatic event “hit the heart” of what should have been a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community to come together.
The LGBTQ+ community has a strong history of advocacy and activism, Mulhern-Pearson said. She added that when the community comes together they can accomplish great things.
“This is a moment when we need to be united,” she said.
Drew Hendrickson, former pledge marshal of the queer fraternity Sigma Epsilon Omega and a representative for the Unity House reflected Orlando shooting one year later. He said he remembered “strongly” what it felt like, and the tears he cried after hearing the devastating news.
“My best friend is from Orlando, all of his friends were there at the club,” he said. “That could have been me … I could have been at that club.”
Gay night clubs are considered a “second home” for queer individuals in some cases, Hendrickson said, for many within the LGBTQ+ population are alienated from their biological families.
“There’s a harsh feeling associated with being queer,” he said.
ASUC Senator-elect Juniperangelica Cordova offered thoughts on Pulse, and explained her struggles of feeling unsafe due to her trans femme identity and expressed her hopes for the campus moving forward.
“Death is a part of my reality, and the shooting made it that much more real,” Cordova said, explaining that being a trans female can attract unwanted negative attention.
Cordova said though Berkeley feels safer than some other cities, there is still a sense of uneasiness or fear when while she walks around campus.
Despite negative instances, however, Cordova said she “refuses to not enjoy (her) life because of fear.”
Cordova said she will continue to enjoy and express her identity and will be attending San Francisco Gay Pride on June 24 and 25.
“Pride is an opportunity to be with community and live our truth,” she said.
Contact Janesse Henke at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @JanesseHenke.