It’s been a year since the US saw the largest mass shooting in American modern history, where 49 LGBT+ people were murdered and 53 injured by 29 year-old Omar Mateen at Pulse Nightclub, Orlando, FL.
The murderer behind the tragic attack entered the club in the early hours of June 12th, 2016 and proceeded to take the lives of LGBT men and women as the club shared “everyone get out of pulse and keep running” on their Facebook page.
The attack goes down as not only one of the largest attacks on Americans, but to LGBT people and was a shockwave across the world that LGBT people still have such a long way to go. Despite the horrors that occurred that evening, one dignified hero emerged – Imran Yousuf.
Yousuf, a 24-year-old Hindu and ex-Marine, was working as a bouncer at the nightclub of the night of the massacre knew something was up when he recognised the sounds of bullets from his time in the military.
“Time slowed down,” he explained in an interview last year with The Advocate. “The only difference was that I was surprised for a minute, because I knew this wasn’t a battleground. I heard that sound, that ‘bap-bap-bap.’ I know what follows that sound.”
Slowly but surely, I'm falling in love with this process. Late game, almost midnight but my clients need me and there are plenty of others out there who are beating me in the game. You know what they say, the wolf at the top of the mountain isn't as hungry as the wolf climbing it. A post shared by Yousuf (@mevsyousuf) on Jan 3, 2017 at 8:18pm PST
What happened next made Yousuf an unsung hero to one of the LGBT community’s darkest hours. Using his initiative and strength, he kicked down a door in a corridor at the back of the club, saving the lives of 70 club-goers by allowing them to escape the club.
“You could see in people’s eyes that they had kind of given up. Part of them was saying, ‘Well, this is the end right here. An instinct inside of me kicked in that said, ‘Well, if you’re going to get killed anyway, you might as well make an effort,” he valiantly explained. “There’s definitely a door over there. If I can somehow get to it, I can kick it open, and maybe some of us can get out.’”
According to the Daily Gazette, he stayed on afterwards to help carry the wounded to ambulances.
Yousuf wrote on Facebook following the night that he only “reacted by instinct” and asked people focus their efforts on the victims and their families.
“I have lost a few of my friends that night which I am just finding out about right now and while it might seem that my actions are heroic I decided that the others around me needed to be saved as well and so I just reacted,” he wrote.
Today, one year on, we stand in solidarity, compassion and love with each and every member of the LGBTQ+ community as we send our love to those affected in the Pulse Nightclub attack. It is love that defies violence born from hatred against those having the freedom to be themselves.