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.
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.
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.
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.”