Brandon Wolf (pictured), who survived what remains one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, marked the somber occasion with a call to action in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, in a powerful op-ed published by the Orlando Sentinel.
Wolf was at Pulse on June 12, 2016 with his best friends, Christopher “Drew” Leinonen and Juan Guerrero.
“I remember the thumping Latin music,” Wolf writes. “The unbridled joy of a space safe for me to bring my whole self. A plastic cup teetering on the edge of a bathroom sink. Gunshots — endless gunshots. A panicked sprint for the exit. I remember waiting on a street corner for news, dialing my best friend Drew's number countless times. I remember when I finally realized he would never pick up. By sunrise, 49 people, including Drew and his partner Juan, had been killed by a man filled to the brim with hatred and armed with weapons of war.”
In the wake of the shooting, Wolf says he was faced with a choice between allowing his anger to consume him, or using it to fuel his advocacy.
“America faces a similar crossroads today,” he writes. “Will we allow this rage to devour us? Or will we honor the ones we've lost with action, using our fury to fight the machine that is white supremacy? We watched as a nation the killing of George Floyd. The 8 minutes and 46 seconds laid bare the casual cruelty, the normalization of police violence against black people. And the sickening knowledge that this was not an aberration. ”
Wolf recalls that as he clutched the casket at Leinonen's funeral, he made a promise to his friend: “I will never stop fighting for a world you'd be proud of.”
“The silent promise I made to my best friend is the challenge we face today,” Wolf writes. “George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. And on the eve of Pride Month, the shooting of black trans man Tony McDade by Tallahassee police. Countless victims of systemic racism, bigotry, and violence that stretch back generations. We are faced with the opportunity to honor them with our righteous indignation — to turn it into a rallying cry for a world they would be proud of. A world where we face the uncomfortable tentacles of racism instead of sweeping them under the rug. A world where equity is a reality and black lives do matter. A world where “justice for all” is an institution, not a slogan. We are challenged to honor them with our voices, our votes, our commitment to facing the ugly truths of this nation, and our stubborn insistence that we deserve more. We are challenged to honor them with action.”