The site of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history will become a memorial.

"Christopher was my only child. As I used to tell him, 'You can't do better than perfect.'"

That is how Christine Leinonen explained her relationship to her son to the teary-eyed crowd at the 2016 Democratic National Convention on July 27, 2016. Her son, Christopher, and his boyfriend, Juan Ramon Guerrero, were two of the 49 victims who were killed at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.


Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

"Christopher's paternal grandparents met and fell in love in a Japanese internment camp," Leinonen noted, comforted by two of her son's friends at the podium. "So it was in his DNA that love always trumps hate."

While nothing can truly heal the loss of a child, Leinonen — and many other parents in her shoes — can at least rest assured that their children's memories will never be forgotten in Orlando.

The Pulse nightclub is slated to construct a permanent memorial honoring the victims of the June 12, 2016, massacre.

The LGBTQ nightclub's owner, Barbara Poma, filed paperwork with the State of Florida on behalf of the OnePulse Foundation earlier this month to fund and construct a monument honoring Christopher and the other victims, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

The incident marked the largest mass shooting in American history.

Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images.

The specifics of Pulse's future as a nightclub are still a bit unknown, seeing as the community is still reeling from unprecedented tragedy and loss. But Poma is set on two things: Pulse will return as a safe space for the LGBTQ community, and it will always honor those who lost their lives this June.

"Anything we would ever do would include a memorial," she told the Sentinel.

Tragically, what happened at Pulse is symbolic of a much larger systemic issue: violence against LGBTQ people — and, particularly, queer people of color.

While simply being LGBTQ means you're living more at-risk of discrimination, black and Latinx queer people — especially those who are transgender — are "massively overrepresented among victims of anti-LGBT violence," Fusion reported, pointing to data from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

The majority of people who died at Pulse were LGBTQ people of color.


Photo by Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images.

Although we've taken monumental strides forward toward equality in recent years on issues like marriage equality and same-sex adoption, that level of progress hasn't been felt on every issue across the board.

In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in 2011 that LGBTQ people "are far more likely than any other minority group in the United States to be victimized by [a] violent hate crime."

In her heart-wrenching speech at the DNC, Leinonen encouraged us all not to feel helpless, but to fight so that no other parent needs to experience what she has.

That fight for justice, she said, certainly includes gun control.

"At the time [Christopher was born], I was a Michigan state trooper," she explained. "When I went into labor, the hospital put my off-duty gun in a safe. I didn't argue — I know common-sense gun policies save lives."

"I'm glad common-sense gun policy was in place the day Christopher was born, but where was that common sense the day he died? I never want you to ask that question about your child."

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Courtesy of Back on My Feet
True

Having graduated in the top 10% of Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) cadets nationwide in 2012, Pat Robinson was ready to take on a career in the Air Force full speed ahead.

Despite her stellar performance in the classroom and training grounds, Robinson feared other habits she'd picked up at Ohio University had sent her down the wrong tracks.

First stationed near Panama City, Florida, Robinson became reliant on alcohol while serving as an air battle manager student. After barnstorming through Atlanta's nightclubs on New Year's Eve, Robinson failed a drug test and lied to her commanding officer about the results.

Eleven months later, she was dismissed. Feeling ashamed and directionless, Robinson briefly returned home to Cleveland before venturing west to look for work in San Francisco.

After a brief stint working at a paint store, Robinson found herself without a source of income and was relegated to living in her car. Robinson's garbage can soon became littered with parking tickets and her car was towed. Golden Gate Park's cool grass soon replaced her bed.

"My substance abuse spiraled very quickly," Robinson said. "You name it, I probably used it. Very quickly I contracted HIV and Hepatitis C. I was arrested again and again and was finally charged and sentenced to substance abuse treatment."

Keep Reading Show less
via Taber Andrew Bain / Flickr

The tiniest state with the longest name may soon just be the tiniest state after November 3. Rhode Island is voting on whether to change its official name from "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" to "The State of Rhode Island."

Lawmakers in the state would like to shorten the name because the term "plantations" has a historical connection to slavery in the United States.

This isn't the first time the state has attempted to remove "plantations" from its name. Rhode Island attempted the change ten years ago and 78% of voters opposed the idea.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo courtesy of Claudia Romo Edelman
True

When the novel coronavirus hit the United States, life as we knew it quickly changed. As many people holed up in their homes, some essential workers had to make the impossible choice of going to work or quitting their jobs— a choice they continue to make each day.

Because over 80 percent of working Hispanic adults provide essential services for the U.S. economy, the Hispanic community is disproportionately affected. Hispanic families are also much more likely to live in multigenerational households, carrying the extra risk of infecting the most vulnerable. In fact, Hispanics are 20 times more likely than other patients to test positive for COVID-19.

Claudia Romo Edelman saw a community in desperate need of guidance and support. And she created Hispanic Star, a non-profit designed to help Hispanic people in the U.S. pull together as a proud, unified group and overcome barriers — the most pressing of which is the effects of the pandemic.

Because the Hispanic community is so diverse, unification is, and was, an enormous challenge.

Photo credit: Hispanic Star

Keep Reading Show less

Electing Donald Trump to be president of the United States set an incredibly ugly example for the nation's youth.

We know how it's affected the national discourse of regular adults. But there's no denying the conduct of a president impacts how children around the world see the example being set for them. Every day for the past four years, children have been subjected to the behavior of a divisive figure that many of their parents chose to exalt to the most powerful office in the world.

Sure, adults can make excuses for him saying he's an "imperfect messenger" or that they "didn't vote for him to be reverend," but these are all just ways to rationalize voting for a man with zero character. What a message to send to children: Act awful and you'll be handsomely rewarded.

But what if you took away the "Trump" name and examined the character traits of him as an ordinary person? More specifically, what if your daughter came to you and said this was the kind of person she was planning to date? Well, one MAGA family found out and the results are funny, insightful and quite revealing about how we somehow hold our leaders to different and lower standards than we expect from ourselves in our day to day lives.

Keep Reading Show less
File:Delta Airlines - Boeing 767-300 - N185DN (Quintin Soloviev ...

Want to land yourself on a no-fly list? Refuse to wear a mask on an airplane. Delta is actually having to ban people from flights for not wearing masks. "As of this week, we've added 460 people to our no-fly list for refusing to comply with our mask requirement," Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a message to employees per CNN. The number is up from 270 people in August. It's kinda nuts that people are so against covering their nose and mouth that they're actually willing to get kicked off an airline, but here we are.

We're a good seven months in to the pandemic, so having to wear some kind of protective covering isn't new anymore. Delta flights have been requiring face masks on flights since May 4th, and has been barring rule breakers from traveling since June. Delta is also one of two major U.S. airlines that keeps the middle seat open (at least until the end of 2020).

Keep Reading Show less