On Sunday June 12th, 2016, the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL experienced turmoil. The turmoil and terror that no city or person should have to face.
A shooting occurred that night and sent The City Beautiful into crisis mode as residents tried to band together to rally around Pulse and all the people directly affected by this tragedy. The LGBT Community in Orlando was the center group that felt the waves of what happened, as many in the Orlando LGBT Community frequent Pulse Nightclub.
But despite the horrific tragedy, Orlando is outwardly stronger as a whole because of the terrible events the city faced.
The sports organizations of Orlando including MLS’s Orlando City Lions, NWSL’s Orlando Pride, ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears, NBA’s Orlando Magic and AFL’s Orlando Predators, all grabbed hands and joined together to sell #OrlandoUnited Shirts that went viral throughout the city and beyond.
The Orlando City Soccer Club is currently building their brand new stadium. And through this, they have taken another step to make sure their city knows that they continue to be, and will always be behind the people of Orlando.
OCSC is building a seating tribute to all the Pulse victims in the brand new stadium to continue their statement of #OrlandoUnited, even months after the tragedy.
Fresh U took the opportunity to reach out to a few Orlando Native college students, to get their opinions, thoughts and feelings about what Orlando City is doing for their hometown.
1. Hayden Ellis — Florida Southern College
“I think that the tribute in the new stadium is the perfect representation of how the people of Orlando banded together after the tragedy at the Pulse Nightclub. I think in the wake of the tragedy, Orlando City was a leader for the community and a force that helped the people of Orlando begin to heal and respect those that were lost. I had the privilege of going to the game on June 18th, where Orlando City dedicated the game to the #OrlandoUnited Campaign. Each section of the crowd wore a different color to create a rainbow. It was an incredible scene of our city's strength.”
2. Seth Plank — Valencia College
“It is absolutely tragic when a horrific event takes place anywhere, but you never expect it to hit you so close to home! It brought out strong emotions in all of us...But a great thing that I saw was that the city came together, embraced the LGBT community, and immediately started trying to help [in] every way they [could]…We also saw all the support worldwide from the hashtag #OrlandoStrong. I did not know him too well personally, but a close friend of many friends [of mine], Cory Connell, was killed in this horrific event. I grieved with them, and seeing the names all over and driving by Pulse in the following weeks really struck home… As the new soccer stadium [is being built] right here just miles from Pulse, I think that [Orlando City] deciding to honor the Pulse victims in this way is amazing, and I am so proud that I am part of a community that cares so much about its people...[Orlando City] certainly has brought people together, both in the sport, and off the field, with bringing the Orlando community together [through] their actions… Living in the Orlando Area all my life, I have seen the way that our community stands behind us. Whether that be pride or heartbreak, our community always has our back! It makes me proud to live in The City Beautiful as not only is the landscape beautiful, but the people are!"
3. Grace Newbold — Valencia College
"The Pulse shooting was an extremely horrific event. I do think it helps raise awareness to the LBGT community and it also brought Orlando and all of America together to fight hatred towards the LBGT community. I knew somebody who was there that night, he was one of the first shot and killed, and I know [his] family. It was extremely hard to hear that somebody was capable of such a tragedy. It was and still is something very hard to get over. With that being said, I feel that the overwhelming support and compassion from the community enabled these victims and families to mourn privately… I am certainly proud of my community and how we all stood strong, letting people know we were there for them, yet I feel for the families left to relive that night over and over. The tribute by Orlando City is absolutely beautiful. The people directly affected by the shooting deserve to know that the city is with them. What the OCSC is doing is huge and I think it is extremely important that everybody knows they aren’t alone. If I could tell one person about anything in Orlando, it would have to be how put together we are."
4. Josh Hanson — Florida State University
"I think the Pulse Shooting brought a lot of issues up. I think the Pulse shooting brought the people of Orlando together in mourning and healing…It also brought up the topic of hate against the LGBT community in Orlando and in a way, made Orlando a more accepting place for the LGBT community. I had never thought a mass shooting would happen in my hometown. The shooting initially made me really sad and still does to this day. I cried for days on end and still tear up when thinking of the shooting. The lesson that I learned in all of this is that love truly does win. The amount of support and love from people in the community is truly overwhelming. Although the shooting was a terrible event that occurred, a message of love and acceptance came out of it. I think that the ways that the sports teams from Orlando reacted to the shooting were great. The Orlando United shirts that they made were a great way to not only raise money for those in need but [it also] was a great way to let the community know that we are all here for each other. The tribute that the Orlando City Soccer Club has installed in the stadium is a great way of saying that those who were lost in the Pulse shooting will never be forgotten. It's nice to see our city still remembering and embracing the victims of the shooting. One thing that I'd like people to know about Orlando is that it is a beautiful and accepting city. Even now, when I go back home I still see buildings lit in rainbow lights and tributes to the victims of the Pulse Shooting everywhere...We are still showing love, Orlando knows that love wins. What happened in our city back in June has only made us stronger."
5. Matt Casler — Northwestern University:
"We all can understand that the trauma this city has experienced changed it permanently. Orlando has shown that it can rise to become a beacon of tolerance and inclusivity, and that it can be a home to all people of all backgrounds and identities. The shooting, while tragic and painful, brought out the best in the people of this community to support and provide for one another instead of tearing each other apart. The shooting gave me the strength to come out and be my own man. It showed me that, despite horrible adversity, my family, friends and community all stand behind me and support who I am. It taught me the true meaning of personal strength and community. The [Orlando City Soccer] tribute represents all people in this city can stand and fight for a good cause, and that all people here can empathize with the pain of those who are still suffering…Orlando is the type of city you have to experience separate of a Disney vacation to understand its eclectic nature and welcoming atmosphere. There is so much cultural diversity that makes this a miniature global city all on its own, which you don't really see anywhere else."
The Orlando City Lions have fully proved to their beloved city that no on stands alone and no one will ever be forgotten.
Sports have this amazing power of bringing people together. OCSC's actions and how the city of Orlando reacted to them is a true testament: sports matter and have a powerful meaning that goes beyond the field. There is no doubt in my mind that the tribute to the Pulse victims that is being built in the new stadium, will mean and already does mean a whole lot to many in the Orlando community.