In the early hours of Sunday morning, a gunman entered Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, just after last call. By the end of his rampage, he claimed the lives of 49 people and injured 53 more. Suddenly the LGBTQ community, which celebrated victory in the fight for marriage equality only to be bogged down with questions about public bathrooms, finds itself at the epicenter of the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
Those in the community and their allies are still reeling from the attack, which happened in one of the few safe spaces where they feel free to be themselves. But the lone light shining amidst the darkness is the outpouring of support: from citizens at vigils all over the world and on social media through hashtags like #WeAreOrlando, #LoveIsLove and #SayTheirNames; from NGOs and civil-society groups who sprung quickly into action; and even from our country's supposedly most callous entity, corporate America. As we cope with this senseless tragedy, the kindness of these people and organizations can, at the very least, prove there is hope.
Along with a cash donation, JetBlue offered free seats to and from Orlando for family and domestic partners of victims who were killed or injured in the massacre at Pulse. And JetBlue flight attendant Kelly Davis Karas shared the story of one passenger that is going viral. On a flight from Maine to Orlando, Karas and her fellow flight attendants decided to circulate some sheets of paper to give passengers a chance to show their support to the grandmother of Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20, one of the youngest victims.
Passengers responded by writing lengthy letters, and when the flight touched down in Orlando, "every single person" stopped to offer condolences to the bereaved grandmother, Karas wrote on Facebook. The story has since been shared over 100,000 times. "I'm crying," wrote one commenter. "This is what America is."
UnitedHealth Group responded quickly and in kind by opening its mental-health counseling help lines to anyone -- insured or not. Here is the company's statement and contact information, via Orlando Weekly:
"UnitedHealthcare and Optum, the health benefits and services companies of UnitedHealth Group, are taking immediate action to support people affected by the recent mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando. The company is opening Optum's Help Line, providing affected residents access to specially trained mental health specialists.
"Optum's toll-free help line number, 866-342-6892, will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for as long as necessary. The service is free of charge and open to anyone. The help line offers specially trained Optum mental health specialists to help people manage their stress and anxiety so they can continue to address their everyday needs."
On Tuesday, Walt Disney Co. -- which operates its flagship Walt Disney World Resort a mere 15 miles from the Pulse nightclub -- became the fund's largest corporate donor, committing a minimum of $1 million. Additional eligible donations from Disney employees will be matched dollar for dollar, the company said. The park will also offer complimentary reservations for the families and friends of the victims, Fortune reported.
“We are heartbroken by this tragedy and hope our commitment will help those in the community affected by this senseless act,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, in a statement. "We mourn the loss of the victims and offer our condolences to their families, friends and loved ones.”
At least two of the victims, Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35, and Jerald Arthur Wright, 31, were Disney employees, reports the Daily Beast.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sent a letter to employees immediately following the tragedy, and the company donated $50,000 to the OneOrlando Fund. In response to requests from employees, the company also put up a resource page on Wednesday to help team members support victims and their families.
The grandson of the aforementioned JetBlue grandmother, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, was a Starbucks employee. Another employee remains in critical condition, the company said in an update to its team members this week. "In times like these we need to band together to rise above hatred, indifference and cowardice," the company wrote, "and find solace and compassion among one another."
Both the Huffington Post and Time magazine have published guides to supporting Pulse victims -- with either cash or kindness -- without getting scammed. If you or someone you know is facing mental-health challenges as a result of the tragedy, the Huffington Post story also provides a list of resources on how to get help.
Mary Mazzoni, Senior Editor, has written for TriplePundit since 2013. She is also Managing Editor of CR Magazine and the Editor of 3p’s Sponsored Series. Mazzoni’s recent work can be found in Conscious Company, AlterNet and VICE’s Motherboard. She is based in Philadelphia.