‘This is our Charleston’: Orlando LGBT center mourns massacre victims

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A woman mourns for the victims of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando at the LGBT Center of Central Florida in Orlando on June 12, 2016. Photo by William Brangham/PBS NewsHour

At the LGBT Center of Central Florida in Orlando, community members and allies gathered on Sunday to grieve for the victims of the early morning massacre at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in Orlando.

The attack on the LGBTQ community, which President Obama called an “act of terror and an act of hate” also marked the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.

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DeAngelo Scott, who frequents and performs at Pulse nightclub, said he was at the venue a few minutes before the shooting began, but left. Photo by William Brangham/PBS NewsHour

DeAngelo Scott said he was at Pulse “minutes” before the shooting but left before the assault began.

He said he performs drag at the nightclub on Tuesdays and is often there six nights a week.

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A minister speaks at the LGBT Center of Central Florida in Orlando, saying “this is our Charleston.” Photo by William Brangham/PBS NewsHour

Dion Calhoun, who also said he often frequented the Pulse club, said Orlando is generally a very tolerant city.

Of Pulse, he said, “it’s a place that’s considered safe — you felt safe there– we all did.”

Moments later Calhoun learned that a friend of his had died in the attack as the city released the names of four of the gunman’s victims.

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Pulse club patron Dion Calhoun mourned the victims of the nightclub shooting at the LGBT center of Central Florida on June 12, 2016. Photo by William Brangham/PBS NewsHour

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Dion Calhoun reacts after learning a friend was killed in the attack on Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Photo by William Brangham/PBS NewsHour

Caleb Dunaway, a cast member on a Disney production in Orlando, was also in attendance at the center, waiting to hear whether any of his friends had died in the mass shooting.

Dunaway, who frequented the nightclub, called it the LBGTQ community’s “safe haven.”

“This beautiful place has been defiled,” he said of the club, as footage of the Pulse’s blown-out windows appeared on a television nearby. “We’ve all done our head counts — making phone calls, hoping to hear back.”

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Community members mourn for the victims of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando at the LGBT Center of Central Florida in Orlando on June 12, 2016. Photo by William Brangham/PBS NewsHour

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Community members mourn for the victims of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando at the LGBT Center of Central Florida in Orlando on June 12, 2016. Photo by William Brangham/PBS NewsHour

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