In the wake of the horrific shooting that left 50 dead and 53 wounded at a gay night club in Orlando last night, local organizations are stepping up to offer support.
Equality Florida has set up a gofundme.com page to help survivors of the attack.
Blood donation centers across the state are also open, including OneBlood's donation centers at 4041 W. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa, at 9900 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. in St. Pete, and the Big Red Bus is currently parked at WestShore Mall.
“It's a little eye-opening,” said Eric Skains, executive director of St Pete Pride, the biggest Pride celebration in the Southeast, an event scheduled for later this month.
Skains said the event will go on as scheduled, and that his organization is working closely with law enforcement to keep parade and festival-goers safe, as it has since the Boston Marathon bombing.
“We can't let a single act of hate deter us as a community,” he said.
Similarly, said Ben Kirby, a spokesman for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, the mayor still plans to raise the Pride flag above City Hall ahead of Pride Week.
“In light of the tragic events in Orlando, St. Pete PD are working hard to ensure the safety of everyone who will participate in Pride events this month in St. Petersburg,” Kirby tole CL in a text message.
Equality Florida issued a statement expressing profound grief over the event:
We are heartbroken and angry that senseless violence has once again destroyed lives in our state and in our country.
Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety. June commemorates our community standing up to anti-LGBTQ violence at the Stonewall Inn, the nightclub that has become the first LGBTQ site recognized as a national monument.
We have received a steady stream of emails and messages from those seeking to help or to make sense of the senseless. We make no assumptions on motive. We will await the details in tears of sadness and anger. We stand in solidarity and keep our thoughts on all whose lives have been lost or altered forever in this tragedy."
Officials from across the state and nationwide have offered condolences.
From U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando:
"Our thoughts and our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the entire Orlando community. Words cannot express the horror, pain, and sadness that we feel about this terrible loss. I commend the Orlando police for their heroic efforts to save the lives of those who could be saved. Local and federal law enforcement are working right now to uncover more information about the motive and other circumstances of the shooting."
U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, had a chilling analogy:
“We join together today as a nation to pray for the Orlando victims and their loved ones. This is our Paris. Let us resolve today to always confront and defeat terror at the hands of evil so that this may never happen again,” U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, said.
From the White House:
"The President was briefed this morning by Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, on the tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims. The President asked to receive regular updates as the FBI, and other federal officials, work with the Orlando Police to gather more information, and directed that the federal government provide any assistance necessary to pursue the investigation and support the community."