It’s at our country’s worst moments that Americans are often at their best. With every tragedy, stories emerge that heal us and remind us that one person’s horrific, unconscionable actions do not speak for all mankind. People are fundamentally good.
As we grasp for light in the devastation, we need look no further than to those who in the moment or hours after the Orlando nightclub shooting sought ways to help, to give, to try. And as we learn more about how the harrowing events unfolded, we’ll continue to, as Obama said, celebrate the heroes.
Here are the inspiring people we know about so far:
A man had escaped the nightclub unscathed when he saw another man stumble out bleeding, calling for help, according to the The Los Angeles Times. Josh McGill pulled the stranger behind a car and ripped off his shirt to staunch the man’s bullet wounds. The man was also bleeding from a shot in his back, and McGill asked someone standing by to also donate his shirt to try and stop the bleeding. When they made it to the police, an officer had McGill lay down in the backseat of a car with the bleeding man on top of him. McGill was instructed to give him a bear hug and keep him conscious. McGill said he told the man, who ABC News later identified as Rodney Sumter, a bartender at the club, that everything would be okay. Sumter is alive and awaiting surgery, according to ABC, and was likely saved because of McGill.
Ray Rivera, a.k.a DJ Infinite
The gunfire started as the night was winding down and the DJ at Pulse was transitioning to mellow Reggae music, he told the Daily Beast. Ray Rivera ducked behind his booth and a man and a woman joined him hiding. When there was a break in the shots, the man made a run for it, but Rivera said he stayed with the woman, shielding her as he escorted them to safety.
Edward Sotomayor Jr.
The 34-year-old world traveler was shot in the back pushing his boyfriend through a door to safety, according to several news reports. A brand manager for an LGBT travel agency, Edward Sotomayor’s boss told the Orlando Sentinel that of the risks of traveling as a gay man, Sotomayor would say, “We cannot be afraid.”
The need for blood was immediate and urgent, and hundreds of people living in and around Orlando waited in long lines to donate. And while the goodwill of blood donation was a bit tempered by the decades-old law that gay men can’t donate blood unless they’ve been celibate a year, the outpouring of support from people who could give was so overwhelming in Orlando that blood banks had to turn people away and ask them to return in coming days.
A fundraising page set up for the victims reached $1.3 million in less than 24 hours, as donations poured in from all over the world; from individuals and organizations. The largest, $30,000, came from Executive Pride, a network for business leaders who are members of or support the LGBT community. One person listed as Zunaira Islam donated $2,000 and wrote:
“I am gay and muslim. I’m really sorry and upset and that this happened. Sick people with no cause to live and no love inside them, sick people full of anger and hatred, will always use any authority they can, specially religion, to justify their actions. I hope this fund pays for all the emergent surgeries that had to be done, the rehab, the follow up visits.”
Read more about heroes: