News World Orlando residents remain resilient amid horror
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Orlando residents remain resilient amid horror

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Orlando residents have declared they will not be divided by the hate that fuelled the murders of at least 49 innocent revellers in a gay bar.

Despite the hesitation of law enforcement officials to declare an official motive for Omar Mateen’s horrific attack on Pulse nightclub, the targeted nature of the killing spree has driven a hole through the hearts of the LGBT community.

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Yet the overwhelming message from grieving residents and supporters all over the world has been one of love, and the ability to rebuild.

A number of vigils have already been held across Orlando and the US in tribute to the victims – many of whom remain in hospital – as the country comes to grips with its worst mass shooting of all time.

Hundreds of Australians also joined vigils in the wake of the killings, with the Sydney Harbour Bridge being lit up in rainbow colours in a show of solidarity that follows similar moves by iconic buildings around the world.

People gather for a vigil near the Beaubourg art center in downtown Paris on June 12, 2016, to mourn for victims of the mass shooting that occured overnight in Orlando, Florida, at the Pulse gay nightclub. Fifty people were killed, in addition to the shooter, and 53 wounded in the worst mass shooting in US history, the mayor of Orlando Buddy Dyer said earlier on June 12. A fighter from the Islamic State group carried out the mass shooting, the IS-linked news agency Amaq said, quoting an unidentified source. / AFP / GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT (Photo credit should read GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images)
People gather for a vigil near the Beaubourg art centre in downtown Paris. Photo: Getty

On Twitter, the hashtags #LoveWins, #LoveIsLove and #GaysBreakTheInternet have been used to convey a message of solidarity to the victims and the LGBT community at large.

The message #LoveWins first went viral in 2015 when gay marriage was legalised by the US Supreme Court, but has been resurrected in the wake of the attacks.

Local paper the Orlando Sentinel emblazoned its front page with the simple message: “Our community will heal”, while hundreds took part in peaceful vigils across the city.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull condemned the attack as “clearly directed by a murderous hatred of gay people”, while Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called it an “attack on the right to be proud of who you are and who you love”.

Mourners lay flowers during a vigil in reaction to the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida,in New York
Mourners lay flowers under a sign urging “Stop the hate” at a vigil in New York. Photo: Getty

Victims names slowly revealed

On Monday evening (AEST), officials confirmed the death of Eddie Justice, the young man whose desperate text messages to his mother from the inside the Pulse nightclub garnered global attention.

“Mommy I love you,” the first message said. “In club they shooting.”

Justice sent a number of messages to his mother saying Mateen had him and others cornered in the bathroom and he feared he was “gonna die”.

When Mina Justice still hadn’t heard her son’s fate 15 hours later, she told Associated Press, “I got a bad feeling”.

The City of Orlando website has been gradually updating a list of confirmed victims – most of them in their 20s and 30s.

Reflecting Pulse’s Latino-themed night on Saturday, a majority of the victims are of Latino descent.

Stanley Almodovar III, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo and Edward Sotomayor Jr. Photo: Telegraph UK via Facebook
Victims Stanley Almodovar III, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo and Edward Sotomayor Jr. Photo: Telegraph UK via Facebook

Stanley Almodovar III (above left) was a 23-year-old pharmacy technician described by his aunt as “an amazing person with a good soul”.

His mother told the Orlando Sentinel she had expected to come home from the nightclub hungry and had left some tomato and cheese dip in the fridge for him.

Edward Sotomayor Jr (above right) was a 34-year-old brand manager for a gay travel agency known for wearing a top hat.

He died trying to shield his boyfriend from Mateen’s gunfire, according to news.com.au.

Luis Velma (above middle) was a 22-year-old production assistant at Universal Orlando theme park and had studied at Seminole State College of Florida.

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