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One year ago today, 49 people were tragically murdered at Pulse nightclub in Orlando by a cowardly terrorist named Omar Mateen. Mateen committed the murders in the club that night – a gay nightclub – in the name of ISIS.
As a doctor, CEO, and philanthropist, my plate is always so full that oftentimes I feel like sleep is just not in the cards. But I remember the day of the Orlando massacre being a rare day where I was able to sleep late. I woke up just in time to turn on the Yankees game for a few minutes before getting ready for a business lunch I had scheduled when I saw the news of what had happened.
I remember my reaction as though it happened yesterday. I slowly sat down on my couch – and if this is embarrassing to admit, so be it – I began to weep tears of sadness for the victims and their families.
I thought about my three daughters and how devastated I would have felt if the shooter had picked an establishment that any of them had been at that night.
Truthfully, it is moments like those when you truly realize just how fragile life is and how silly some of the issues are that divide us. I didn’t know any of the victims or anybody else who was in the club that night, but they were fellow human beings that were just looking to have an enjoyable night out on a weekend and never in their wildest dreams imagined it would be the last weekend they would ever see.
I do not know which sports teams they liked, which God they prayed to, who they voted for, or any other issues where we may have differed. When I heard the news, all I could think of was that these were people who had been robbed of their very existence by a disgraceful coward driven by hatred.
Not just hatred of gay people, but hatred of people in general. Mateen claimed this was revenge for a U.S, airstrike in Iraq, which is insane and evil for obvious reasons.
It is one thing to be upset at the actions of the U.S. government and even plan an attack on those engaged in battle. It is another matter entirely to do what Mateen did and purposely murder a group of people who had nothing to do with the airstrike. Those are the actions of an insane murderer, not some sort of avenging angel or freedom fighter and makes him far worse than those he claimed to have been at war against.
It is scary to realize that Mateen has many across the globe – and even here in the United States - who think like him and could be in the process of planning similar attacks at this very moment.
That’s why as we remember the victims of this horrible attack, we must also remember Mateen. We must remember who he was, what he did, and how he did it.
Because while we may owe the victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings and their families our deepest sympathies and sorrow, we also owe it to them to make sure that every effort is taken to make sure nothing like that happens ever again.