In the early morning hours this past Sunday, 49 people died when a gunman opened fired at Pulse, an Orlando gay nightclub. Another 53 were wounded during the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
This morning, Orlando police released the names of those killed. But these victims are more than names or numbers. They are people—they have lives, families, histories. In the throes of a presidential campaign, many have rushed to politicize this tragedy. And yes, we need to find a way to prevent this kind of thing—we need to do something, anything, to enact change. But first, we need to pause. We need to mourn. We need to remember those whose lives were taken far too early.
Here is a small portrait of one of those 49.
Edward Sotomayor Jr.
Thirty-four years old and a resident of Sarasota, Edward was remembered by his friends for his kind heart, passion for travelling and generous spirit. Edward was the manager at ALandCHUCK.travel, a gay travel agency, and he often travelled around the world to promote the company’s events.
A lover of black top hats, he was nicknamed “top hat Eddie.” Friends paid tribute to Eddie on social media using the black hat emoji.
One of his friends described Eddie as “one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. He touched so many people’s lives because he’s such a positive person. He would do anything for anybody.”
His boss, Al Ferguson, recalled a “super bright” guy who “had accomplished so much,” according to the Orlando Sentinel. He had recently returned from Cuba, where he coordinated the first-ever gay cruise to the island nation.
Ferguson also noted that Eddie was acutely aware of the dangers facing travellers, and gay travellers in particular, but that fear never stopped Eddie. He added that, like Eddie, we cannot be afraid: “What I will say, over and over again, was he was a person who said, ‘We cannot be afraid.’ I know his friends are going to be the exact same way… we are not going to be afraid.”