A woman lights a candle at a South Florida memorial for those slain in Orlando.
A woman lights a candle at a South Florida memorial for those slain in Orlando.
Photo by George Martinez

South Florida to Honor Pulse Nightclub Massacre Victims This Weekend

A year ago, in the early-morning hours of June 12, dozens of families across the United States woke up to discover, with flutters in their chests, that their daughters, sisters, sons, brothers, and mothers were killed in a savage massacre in Orlando.

At a lively nightclub, fittingly named Pulse, hundreds of people had gathered to dance and celebrate life under the kaleidoscopic movements of strobe lights. No one was expecting that above the heavy bass beats and heartbeats of EDM songs would ring a stranger staccato: gunshots.

Spurred by hate and armed with an assault rifle, 29-year-old Omar Mateen — who some clubgoers recognized as a regular — had gone on a rampage. The self-professed "soldier of God" had carried out the worst mass shooting in U.S. history by killing 49 people.

"The killer chose to project all of his self-hate onto those he could identify as 'other' or 'different,'" says Stephen Fallon, the executive director of Latinos Salud, an organization that felt the effects of the shooting especially deeply. The evening Mateen had chosen to carry out his act of terrorism and hate was "Latin night" at the club.

Rallies across the world, from New York City and Los Angeles to Paris, London, and elsewhere, formed to mourn and show support for LGBTQIA communities. Though many could not physically say goodbye to their loved ones, the memorials and rallies helped them to reflect on the consequences of hate and to concentrate on honoring the victims' lives by promoting love.

In an effort to formally remember the first anniversary of the Pulse nightclub attack, Latinos Salud is teaming up with Equality Florida, the state's largest LGBT advocacy group, to bring the Equality Rally for Unity and Pride to Fort Lauderdale this Sunday. It will pay tribute to the lives of those killed in Orlando, such as 18-year-old Akyra Monet Murray, who had just graduated from high school, and 49-year-old Brenda Lee Marquez-McCool, a mother who protected her gay son from bullets by jumping in front of him.

The rally is also a response to conservative political views in the United States, which remain caustic toward the LGBT community. Many Americans seek to shoot down recent wins for queer individuals, such as same-sex marriage, and, in doing so, erase their dignity. Fallon tells New Times that the rally is focused on bringing people together, to stand up against hate in all its shades.

"At the rally, we stand united," Fallon says. "We embrace all labels of self -identification, not to divide... We value the uniqueness of every community member. We find strength in our diversity, the many voices that make the chorus."

At the rally, a wave of people will hold signs bearing the names of each person slain. 

At rallies last year, members of the LGBT community held signs bearing the names of the Pulse victims.
At rallies last year, members of the LGBT community held signs bearing the names of the Pulse victims.
Courtesy of Latinos Salud

Days of remembrance like these let the victims live on forever so that they remain a part of our lives," Fallon says. "Lincoln believed that the only path to immortality was in the memory of others."

The rally, which will run from 4 to 6 p.m., will take place at Huizenga Plaza on Las Olas Boulevard. Like last year's memorials, this event will be a time to reflect on those who perished, but also time to celebrate life in all its harrowing fabulousness.

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