Update: In a press conference Monday morning, Orlando police confirmed that 49 people had been killed and 53 injured early Sunday morning at Orlando’s Pulse gay nightclub in the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history. After opening fire on the crowd, an individual named Omar Mateen had taken hostages and was ultimately killed in a stand-off with police; Mateen had called 911 and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State shortly before the massacre. Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer declared a state of emergency, and the massacre is being investigated as an act of terrorism.
The victims’ names were released by the city of Orlando on its website as their next of kin were informed.
Earlier: On early Sunday morning, a shooter opened fire at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, causing what would become the deadliest mass shooting in American history with 50 people dead and at least 50 more injured. Orlando has declared a state emergency, and President Barack Obama has addressed the nation to call for solidarity in these dark times. One of the ways in which the President expressed his support for the victims was by ordering all U.S. flags be flown at half-staff to honor those who lost their lives in the Orlando shooting.
President Obama orders flags flown at half-staff as a mark of respect for the victims of the Orlando attack. pic.twitter.com/o3RDO9DpsX
— ABC News (@ABC) June 12, 2016
The act of flying the United States flag at half-staff is one that signifies deep respect for all the victims. The order applies to flags at the White House, on all public buildings and grounds, military posts, naval stations, and on naval vessels. Flags will continue to be flown at half-staff until sunset on June 16, 2016.
The order came after the President gave a moving speech at the White House. In a time when the United States has once again been touched by terror, the President called for the country to stand together. Obama spoke eloquently about what the Pulse represented to the gay community. “The place where they were attacked was more than a nightclub, it was a place of solidarity and empowerment,” Obama said during his address.
The FBI will be investigating the shooting as an act of terrorism..
This is a time of mourning for the United States, but also one of solidarity. As the nation’s flag flies half-staff, make it known that you stand with the LGBTQ community and all those affected by these tragic events. As President Obama said in his speech, “In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another.”
President Obama’s Speech:
“As Americans, we grieve the brutal murder, a horrific massacre of dozens of innocent people. We pray for the families, who are grasping for answers with broken hearts. We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city.
Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate. As Americans we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.
I just finished a meeting with FBI director Comey and my homeland security and national security advisors. The FBI is on the scene and leading the investigation in partnership with local law enforcement. I’ve directed that the full resources of the federal government be made available for this investigation.
We are still learning all of the facts. This is an open investigation. We have reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer. The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism. I have directed that we must spare no effort to determine what, if any, inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups.
What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred. Over the coming days we will uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us. This morning I spoke with my good friend Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and I conveyed to him the deepest condolences of the American people. This could have been any one of our communities. I told Mayor Dyer that whatever help he and the people of Orlando need, they are going to get it. As a country, we are going to be there for the people of Orlando today, tomorrow, and for all the days to come. We also express our profound gratitude to all of the police and first responders who rushed to harm’s way. Their courage and professionalism saved lives and kept the carnage from being even worse. That’s the kind of sacrifice that our law enforcement professionals make every single day for all of us, and we can never thank them enough.
This is an especially heartbreaking day for all of our friends, our fellow Americans, who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The shooter targeted a night club where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a night club, it is a place of solidarity and empowerment, where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights. So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us, and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as as country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.
Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or in a movie theater, or in a night club. And we have to decide if that is the country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.
In the coming hours and days, we’ll learn about the victims of this tragedy. Their names, their faces, who they were, the joy they brought to their family and friends, and the difference they made in this world. Say a prayer for them. Say a prayer for their families. May god give them the strength to bear the unbearable. May he give us all the strength to be there for them, and the strength and courage to change. We need to demonstrate that we are defined more as a country by the way they lived their lives, than by the hate of the man who took them from us.
As we go together, we will draw inspiration from heroic and selfless acts. Friends who helped friends, took care of each other, and saved lives. In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give in to fear or turn against each other, instead we will stand united as Americans to protect our people and defend our nation and to take action against those who threaten us. May God bless the American we lost this morning, may he comfort their families. May God continue to watch over this country that we love.”
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