Early in the morning hours of June 12, 29-year-old Omar Mateen entered Pulse, an LGBT-friendly nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 50 and wounding 53 people. Within minutes, law enforcement, paramedics and other first responders were mustered to the scene. Meanwhile, Mateen advanced further into the venue, holding over one hundred hostages. This standoff continued for several hours until Mateen was fatally shot by Orlando police officers. Immediately following, victims were transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center for treatment.
In the aftermath of this deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman, citizens from all over the United States have come together to support victims and their families. On June 13, at 8 p.m., the people of Bremerton congregated at the Evergreen Memorial Park to mourn the 50 lives lost during the Pulse nightclub shooting. The sidewalks were lined with 50 paper bags; each slightly filled with white rice and a solitary tea light. In the center of the vigil was a large rainbow flag. At the end of the flag was a table, draped in a banner saying, “Kitsap Stands with Orlando”. People lined up around the table to fill the banner with their messages of support, which would be presented to Buddy Dyer, the incumbent mayor of Orlando.
Leaders of Kitsap County were present at the event to show support for Orlando. Bremerton’s mayor, Patty Lent, started the vigil with a solemn address. “We are solidarity. We would never let anyone feel afraid in our community. We are not going to let this incident bring fear to our community,” Lent announced. Following a moment of silence of those who died in the shooting, the crowd slowly counted to 50, symbolizing the number of people lost that fateful morning.
Future events happening in conjunction with LGBT Pride Month are Seattle’s annual Pride Parade, taking place on June 26, and Kitsap Pride on July 16 at Evergreen Park in Bremerton. Olympic College is continuing its efforts to establish a friendlier atmosphere to people of many diversities and backgrounds as well. Those who identify as LGBT and are seeking resources are encouraged to visit room BSC-118 on the Bremerton campus to receive support.