Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Silent Surveilence

There is some sensitive content and disturbing details included within. If you feel you may be affected, please do not read this post.

Today I witnessed the most shocking evidence in the Noor Salman trial. The prosecutors displayed the Pulse Nightclub surveillance videos for June 12, 2016 starting around 2:02 AM. People could be seen partying and dancing near the bar with large blue Japanese lanterns decorating the ceiling. Then Omar Mateen was highlighted as he walked into the room. I have been in that room partying with actors in the past. I am familiar with the tightly packed space. The surveillance video was silent. For the next seven minutes we watched as Mateen ruthlessly gunned down everyone in the room. People dropped to the floor. We watched as he walked the room, pacing back and forth, shooting prone victims multiple times. Bodies writhed from the impact. At times I wondered if they were still alive or just the impact of the bullets was causing their limbs to react. One person, unable to get up, ran in place as he lay on his side. It was like a horrific nightmare, wanting to escape, but unable to move. Another lay face down on the stage. People lay stacked together on the floor near the bar. Each time someone moved, I prayed that they would not be shot next. One person lay silent on the patio. The time code displayed minute by minute the carnage in utter silence along with a Computer Graphic map of the club that tracked Omar's movements..

Omar stopped to reload and then began shooting helpless people at close range again. The surveillance camera switched to the front entry where police entered the club. I couldn't draw. I was numb. I hadn't expected to witness the mass murder first hand. What was seen cannot be unseen. A police body cam showed police lifting a woman who was shot in the leg into a pick up truck. She screamed in agony. The sound of wind whipped the microphone as she moaned and then they had to remove her, and then her screams were even worse and more ear piercing. Those sounds sceams bear down deep into your soul.

The footage switched to a helicopter night vision view of the club from above. The white forms of police could be seen in the dark field at the back of the club. A charge was set and detonated then police could be seen using a manual battering ram to further open the breach in the wall near the bathrooms. Gunfire flashed and the operator shouted, "Shots fired!" Two police dragged a body through the grass towards the street leaving behind a subtle heat trail on the ground.

39 bodies lay dead on the floor and FBI agents and police both noted the constant ringing of cell phones that filled the room. Two others were dragged across the street behind Einstein Bagels where they were pronounced dead. The remaining victims were pronounced dead at Orlando Regional Medical Center. That means 8 people died on route or at the Medical Center. The Medical Center claims that every person who was alive when they arrived at the ER survived, but that is an optimistic PR white washing of the grim reality of the triage.

Walking the streets of Downtown Orlando after leaving court, the ceaseless activity seemed annoyed, impatient, and hurried. A block north, under the I-4 overpass, multiple police cars were flashing their lights due to some extensive police activity. I kept walking. Was this life as usual? What is the new normal in Orlando?

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