Weeks after the Pulse shooting, Pulse Night Club Shooting Survivors and Hero Speaks
It's been two weeks since a gunman ended the lives of 49 victims and injured dozens of others at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. As survivors heal and a community embraces the wounded and honors the dead, questions linger about what happened that night — and how the U.S. would respond after its deadliest mass shooting in recent history
The Deadliest Mass Shootings In Modern U.S. History
Many details of the attack still aren't known. But thanks to police and FBI records and witness accounts, it's become clearer — if still impossible to comprehend — what transpired in Orlando in the early hours of June 12, between 2:02 a.m. and 5:15 a.m. ET.
'All Hell Broke Loose'
The weekend had already started on a tragic note, with the death on Saturday morning of a former contestant on The Voice. Christina Grimmie had been shot the night before as she signed autographs following a performance at an Orlando theater, and the city was struggling to come to terms with this violent crime.
Saturday night was Latin Night at Pulse, one of the city's best-known gay clubs, and the place was packed with patrons both gay and straight, young and not-so-young, from the U.S., Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and elsewhere, having a good time, dancing salsa and bachata.
At 2:02 a.m., according to an FBI timeline, Orlando police received reports that multiple shots had been fired at Pulse. An off-duty officer was working there and "engaged in a gun battle" with the shooter, said Orlando Police Chief John Mina. "The suspect, at some point, went back inside the club, where more shots were fired," Mina said.
Additional officers had arrived at 2:04 a.m. and entered Pulse four minutes later, exchanging fire with the attacker.
At 2:09 a.m., a warning appeared on the club's Facebook page: "Everyone get out of pulse and keep running."
Many did. But not everyone could.
As soon as Angel Colon heard the gunshots, he and his friends ran for their lives. But Colon was shot three times. He fell and was trampled. All around him, he heard shots and cries for help.
"I could just see him shooting at everyone and I can hear the [shots getting] closer, and I look over and he shoots the girl next to me," he said. "And I'm just there laying down and I'm thinking, 'I'm next. I'm dead.' "
"Just all hell broke loose, people running for the door, jumping over the gates," said Ray Rivera, also known as DJ Infinite, who'd been playing music that night in the patio area. He took cover behind his booth, shielded two others and was able to flee to safety.
Some wounded clubgoers played dead on the dance floor. Others barricaded themselves inside bathroom stalls and, not wanting to speak, texted loved ones for help. The gunman paced around the rear of the club, laughing and shooting at bodies already on the ground.
A SWAT team was called at 2:18 a.m.
At 2:35 a.m., about half an hour after the shooting began, the shooter made one ofseveral 911 calls, according to the FBI
"I wanna let you know, I'm in Orlando and I did the shootings," the gunman told the operator during this 50-second call, according to a transcript released by the FBI.
"What's your name?" the operator asked.
"My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State."
At 2:48 a.m., the gunman — whose name was Omar Mir Seddique Mateen — spoke with crisis negotiators from the Orlando police. He had a second conversation with them at 3:03 a.m. and a third at 3:24 a.m.
Mateen identified himself as "an Islamic soldier," according to the FBI, and threatened to detonate explosives, including a car bomb and a suicide vest — the kind "used in France," he said, referring to the terrorist attacks in Paris last November. Searches inside and outside the club failed to turn up these items, investigators said.
Mateen is also believed to have spent time online during his siege of the club, checking Facebook and searching for "Pulse Orlando" and "shooting." He called a friend. He texted his wife
The Orlando Sentinel put together a digital time capsule of what life has been like in Orlando since a man opened fire in a gay nightclub and killed 49 people. The video, 24-minutes long, doesn't focus on the shooter or his story.
Instead, it tells small stories from survivors, a first responder, the community and each of the victims.
"While I think the city is forever changed, and I think the unity and feeling of community and togetherness is something that will stick, I think we wanted to document the beginning of that story as close to the beginning as we could," said Todd Stewart, the Sentinel's interactive and visuals manager.
The Sentinel, which has covered the news since the very beginning, has started pulling back from daily vigils, funerals and investigations to offer a broader look at how the community is coping
This is the first pull-back video since the shooting, Stewart said, and also the first long-form video they've produced (not counting live programming).
"It's still raw," he said. "It's still an emotional event to cover. It's still very raw in our community. No one's forgotten. We're getting closer and closer to a spot where we can start healing a little bit."
Stewart and the team that worked on the project didn't intend for it to be a restorative narrative, but it is an example of one, said Mallary Tenore, executive director of the non-profit media group Images and Voices of Hope and the former editor of Poynter.org.
Restorative narratives, by definition, document how people and communities heal and find resilience months, sometimes years after tragedy. They don't often happen when the story is so new, Tenore said, but she's seen a few news organizations show moments of resilience as they unfold.
"It's showing how people are really trying to make sense of what happened, coming together and trying to find ways to heal from this even though it's still very raw," she said.
Restorative narratives don't gloss over difficulties, she added, but they can show that a community isn't defined by those difficulties.
In the Sentinel's video, there are survivors meeting for the first time since the morning of the shooting, a physician whose bloody shoes became a symbol of grief and determination, Orlando's mayor and a few minutes devoted to reclaiming what the city really means.