We can no longer ask, ‘When this will end?’
It was a typical Saturday night in Orlando at the Pulse, a popular gay club, filled with guests celebrating Latin Night. Then, about 2 a.m., as one guest described it on a news broadcast last Sunday evening —almost a “rat-a-tat-tat” sound that many guests thought was part of the music. Within minutes, they realized it wasn’t.
There was panic as guests, dead or wounded, started falling and others yelled for everyone to get out. It was the moment that a 29-year-old security guard, Omar Mateen, armed with an AR-15-type assault rifle and a 9mm semiautomatic pistol, according to various news reports, started firing at guests. There were no specific targets — everyone was fair game - as this animal took out anyone in sight, 30 at a time, with the rifle, coupled with the pistol.
As guests ran for their lives, trying to reach the street and the lifelines of loved ones and the police, some, I understand, sought hiding places in bathrooms and alcoves. He found them too and shot them down without missing a round of the 30 that the rifle holds. Then the shooting stopped briefly while the attacks turned into a hostage negotiation after Mateen called 911, pledging his allegiance to ISIS, according to a CNN report I read.
“According to the
In the end, some 50 people were killed and another 50-plus individuals were wounded. Reports now call this the worst mass shooting in United States history.
A sobbing mom yelled repeatedly that she just wanted to find her son. There were horrific images of friends or siblings carrying wounded or lifeless bodies from the club. I could hardly bear to watch the aftermath.
In one account, a woman in a bathroom protected herself by using bodies to cover her. Another report spoke of patrons communicating with authorities until an armored vehicle broke down the door of the building. A bartender hid under the glass bar, and when police came in they told survivors to simply raise their hands if they were alive.
Later on the day after, when President Barack Obama stepped to the microphone after this tragedy to address a shocked nation, yet again, he said, “As Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage and in resolve to defend our people.” I couldn’t agree more.
In a follow-up piece, I learned that a young woman who had recently moved to Orlando from Torrington, Conn., was among the victims. She was a bouncer and was on the job when the shooting began. There was no commentary about how Mateen entered the club, fully armed.
Even though there have been some time lapses in these horrific incidents, I wanted to see how often shootings have occurred since December 14, 2012, when Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and used a semi-automatic rifle to snuff out the lives of 20 chilldren, along with six adult school staff members.
Even prior to that disaster, in 2007, a shooter killed 32 innocent people at Virginia Tech before turning the gun on himself. That was considered the worst mass shooting in United States history, and the memorial to those victims took my breath away when we visited.
But there have been more shootings that have spilled the blood of mothers, fathers, siblings and other loved ones. According to an Associated Press piece, before Newtown, in a Minnesota workplace shooting, a man pulled a gun and shot six people, including the founder of the company. He went to another firm, wounded two others and took his own life.
The account spoke of four other tragedies. In June 2015 in Charleston, S.C., 9 African-American church members were killed; in October 2015, 10 were killed and 7 wounded at a community college in Oregon; in December 2015, a shooter and his companion killed 14 and wounded more than 20 in San Bernardino, Calif.; and in February 2016, an Uber driver randomly shot and killed six people and wounded two others, picking up fares between shootings.
Sadly, we can no longer ask, “When will this end?” We know it won’t! So we are left now with the inevitable questions — Where and when will it happen again and can we possibly prevent it?
Steven Gaynes has been a columnist for the Fairfield Citizen since 1988 and his regular column appears every Friday.