2016 Rewind: Tragedy at Pulse, but love overcomes hate

Lisa Neff, Staff writer

Early June 12, a gunman armed with an assault rifle and a handgun went on a rampage at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida.

Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 others before police killed him in a gunfight.

The 29-year-old killer was an American who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, abused his wife, used slurs against blacks, Jewish people, women and gays — although he himself was a regular patron of Pulse.

Orlando — famously known as the “Happiest Place on Earth” — became the site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, a massacre that left Americans mourning the many lost and struggling with extremism, prejudice and gun access.

“I can’t stop crying. I can’t make any sense of it all,” Henry Rivera of Orlando said the day after the rampage. The transgender man — who works at a restaurant just outside Disney World — added, “Everything seems different now.”

In the weeks after the shooting, vigils took place around the world. People traveled to Orlando to mourn strangers, help survivors and erect memorials.

In the months after the shooting, authorities continued the investigations into Mateen’s motives and the police response. Activists launched campaigns against gun violence and homophobia.

“Love trumps hate” became a unifying cry. From Pride events around the country to the Democratic National Convention following speeches by victims’ mothers, from the demonstrations outside Donald Trump-Mike Pence rallies to LGBT equality rallies held week after week in North Carolina, the cry was heard.