ORLANDO, Fla. — What’s long been billed as one of the happiest places on earth is now an epicenter of tragedy and grief.
In the past five days, the Orlando area has suffered a trio of horrific events: The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The slaying of a young singing sensation. The disappearance of a 2-year-old boy snatched by an alligator at a Disney hotel.
But locals who know Orlando by its nickname, “The City Beautiful,” say the city will recover stronger than before.
This is what they’re grappling with:
The Pulse nightclub massacre
The overarching tragedy remains the attack early Sunday at the Pulse gay nightclub, which killed 49 clubgoers and wounded 53 more. The shooting spree by Omar Mateen horrified the city and the nation and prompted an outpouring of grief and condolences from around the world.
It also galvanized support for Orlando’s gay and Latino communities, which were especially hard hit by the massacre during the club’s Latin Night event.
If Mateen was trying to marginalize Orlando’s gay community, he may have done exactly the opposite. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said even some who wouldn’t normally support the city’s LGBT residents attended a vigil and offered condolences.
One man brought a cooler stuffed with cold drinks to hand out to the mourners.
“To the LGBT community, I am so very sorry. From an evangelical Christian,” the sign on his cooler read.
The community also showed its support in other ways. Thousands of Floridians stood in line for up to three hours to give blood to help wounded survivors. By Monday, more than 13,000 units of blood were collected, the One Blood organization said.
“We are no longer in a crisis situation because of everyone’s generosity,” One Blood spokeswoman Susan Forbes said. “They’ve helped to replenish the blood supply in record time.”
Raquel Plaza Brown attended a vigil for the victims with a friend, whose son is part of the Orlando LGBT community.
“Coming together as a community is really the only way we’re going to heal,” she said Monday night. “Orlando is The City Beautiful and what happened yesterday rocked us, but it’s not going to end us. We’re going to come out better on the other side.”
The Christina Grimmie shooting
Two days before the carnage at the nightclub, singer Christina Grimmie was signing autographs for fans in Orlando when a gunman killed her.
Grimmie, 22, who rose to stardom on YouTube and then on the NBC TV show “The Voice,” had just wrapped a show at The Plaza Live theater when 27-year-old Kevin James Loibl shot her, police said.
The singer’s brother, Marcus, tackled Loibl before the gunman killed himself.
“As you’ve seen all over social media, anyone who ever came across her or knew her, knows that she was just a truly good person, somebody you loved to be around, somebody who cared about the people around her and the world around her,” said Josh Kaufman, Season 6 winner of “The Voice.”
“It’s just a huge tragedy.”
The boy snatched by an alligator at Disney
A Nebraska family’s vacation to Disney World turned into a nightmare after a 2-year-old boy was snatched by an alligator from a lagoon at a Disney hotel Tuesday night.
By mid-day Wednesday, the rescue operation turned to a recovery effort as authorities said the attack was not survivable.
Disney was already in the spotlight after news that the Pulse nightclub gunman had apparently made multiple surveillance trips to Disney properties prior to his attack at the club.
Authorities are investigating whether his wife, who accompanied him to Disney World, knew an attack was coming.
For many, the alligator incident marked yet another heartbreak for a city already reeling from so much loss.
“Every news from Florida seems to be tragic recently,” Santiago Valdez tweeted. “Whats going on?”